This year is going to be different for Evan Longoria.
There's the baby he and girlfriend Jaime Edmondson are expecting just before opening day. The attention, and expectations, that come with his $100 million contract extension. A decision to take on an increased leadership role in the Rays clubhouse.
And the realization that he has to find a way — even if it reluctantly means taking preventative days off — to avoid having another season disrupted by injury.
"This has to come to an end," he said.
Longoria missed more than half of last season with a left hamstring injury, leading to November surgery — which left him "feeling like a new man" — and his early arrival at Rays spring training, which formally starts today with a workout for pitchers and catchers.
He missed a month the previous season with an oblique strain, and the last 10 games (and was limited in the playoffs) the one before that with a quad strain. Plus, he had a finger infection in the middle of the 2009 season and a broken wrist as a 2008 rookie. Overall, he has missed more than 20 percent of the Rays' games in his five seasons.
After seeing Longoria try a series of different conditioning programs and routines, the Rays are planning to find ways to get him more rest. With last year a sledgehammer reminder of how valuable he is to have on the field, executive vice president Andrew Friedman said they haven't committed to a specific plan (such as DH, pinch-hit, total rest) but, "I'm sure we'll be a little bit more proactive in terms of giving him days."
And as much as Longoria prides himself as an everyday gladiator, he is willing to make the concession.
"If I have to take a day off here and there to not go on the DL and not have to deal with that kind of stress or worry, I'll do it," he said. "Trying to avoid the DL is going to be the biggest thing for me."
But he won't necessarily be happy about it.
Tampa Bay Rays' Evan Longoria 'feeling like a new man'
Tampa Bay Times | Feb 13