May 1, 2012; St. Petersburg, FL, USA; Tampa Bay Rays executive vice president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman talks to the media after signing designator hitter Hideki Matsui (not pictured) to a minor league contract at Tropicana Field. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Rays Notes: Andrew Friedman Talks Bullpen, Evan Longoria Discusses Health

Year after year, it has been the same story with the Rays bullpen. They have entered the season with plenty of question marks after signing several players coming off horrible seasons, and critics insist that this year would be the one that the Rays’ relief corps finally fall apart, But then, somehow, the Rays bullpen emerges as one of the best in baseball and plays a huge role in their teams’ success. That has been true for 2008, 2010, 2011, 2012, and to an extent in 2009. But this year has certainly been the exception. Even Andrew Friedman has no idea what’s going on even as he shows for his players.

“I don’t have a great explanation for the recent struggles,” executive vice president Andrew Friedman said Thursday. “Bullpens are extremely difficult to predict by nature, but we came into the year with as much confidence as you can have in what they were capable of. We struggled in the bullpen early last year and the narrative was that our bullpen wasn’t very good, and we all know how that turned out.

“We are confident in this group of guys, and I’m looking forward to them having a run of success so they can get back to pitching aggressively and with confidence.”

Friedman raises some good points, but we’ve reached the point in the year where it’s still early but the sample size isn’t so tiny anymore and you have to wonder how much longer he will wait to make a move. For now, Rays fans just have to hope Rays relievers can hit their stride and turn this disastrous start to the season around.

On the complete opposite of the spectrum is Evan Longoria, who is playing as well as we have ever seen him right now. On the season, he has a .335/.399/.585 line with 15 doubles, 9 homers, and 29 RBI reemerging as one of the best players in all of baseball. What has been the key to Longoria’s success? Longoria credits simply the fact that he has been able to stay healthy.

“I just think that I’m happy I’ve been able to be healthy and on the field,” Longoria said. “And just that in itself creates a real positive mentality, a real ability to just be focused on one thing every day. And that’s going out and winning the game any way we can and being able to help in as many ways as I can.”

Longoria is healthy, which means that he’s capable of playing his best baseball, and adding in the confidence he has after seeing that he’s finally at 100% for the first time in way too long has just made him better. Longoria admitted that his legs were feeling disproportionately tired earlier in the season, but the more he has played, the better he has felt. Longoria won’t be quite this good moving forward, but now that he’s healthy everything has changed for him and for the entire Rays offense. It will be years before Rays fans stop being terrified that Longoria will get injured again. But as long as he continues to prove that he can stay healthy, he will be a force to be reckoned with, and the Rays are lucky to have him in their uniform for years to come.

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Tags: Andrew Friedman Evan Longoria Tampa Bay Rays

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