March 25, 2012; Port Charlotte, FL, USA; Tampa Bay Rays third baseman Evan Longoria (3) during their spring training game against the Miami Marlins at Charlotte Sports Park. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Rays Notes: Evan Longoria, Everyone Excited for Start of Spring

We’ve finally made it. Rays pitchers and catchers have reported, along with quite a few position players, and baseball is slowly but surely starting to get in full swing. Among the position players reporting is the player who is the key to the Rays’ performance in 2013, Evan Longoria. Longoria is coming back from hamstring surgery, but he’s feeling great, describing himself to Marc Topkin “as a new man” and looking forward to a healthy and productive year. He understands that additional off-days may have to be part of that process.

“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.”

In addition to staying on the field and playing as well as everyone in baseball knows he can, Longoria is going to have additional expectations bestowed on him to be a clubhouse leader after veterans like James Shields, B.J. Upton, and Carlos Pena left this offseason. That’s not going to be a problem for Longoria and he’s going to be proactive making that happen.

“I just told myself coming into spring this year that I would do a better job at meeting the new guys and just making myself available,” he said.

Longo obviously was not the only member of the Rays thrilled that baseball’s back and that an exciting season awaits. Joe Maddon is excited about his team for 2013 and especially can’t wait to see Yunel Escobar and Roberto Hernandez.

Maddon said new SS Yunel Escobar has the potential to be an All-Star and Gold Glover and is “a very bright, heady player.”

Overall, Maddon has a good feeling that exciting things are ahead.

 “I like what we’ve done. All the gaps were kinda plugged up so I think it’s going to be another very good season.”

There were also a couple of news items. The first is that right-hander Dane De La Rosa, who was designated for assignment after Luke Scott officially signed with the Rays, has passed through waivers and will remain in the organization. He will still be a part of major league spring training and is expected to report tomorrow. One better-known pitcher who Rays fans could be seeing at the Rays’ spring home in Port Charlotte is Joel Peralta, who has been talking with Andrew Friedman about skipping the World Baseball Classic after pitching in Winter Ball. Peralta is fine with the decision.

“It’s whatever is best for me and the team, or the team and me,” Peralta said.

The Rays’ still appearing in the World Baseball Classic will be Ben Zobrist for the USA, Fernando Rodney for the Dominican Republic, Jose Molina for Puerto Rico, and minor leaguers Leonardo Reginatto and Iago Januario for Brazil.

Tags: Dane De La Rosa Evan Longoria Joel Peralta

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