An incredible rookie year was enough for Tampa Bay Rays fans to forgive Evan Longoria for his first injury, a wrist fracture that sidelined him for nearly a month. Two years later, he missed the last 10 games of the regular season with a quad strain, but he was back for the postseason and delivered a big home run in ALDS Game 4. In 2011, however, the worries began.
Longoria suffered an oblique strain in just the second game of the season, causing him to miss a month, and an ankle injury hampered him for months even after he came back. Then in 2012, an April 30th hamstring strain sent Longoria down until August and derailed the Rays’ entire season as they were under .500 with him gone. The Rays agreed with him on an extension following the year, but fans had to be worried. Would Longoria’s injuries turn him from the phenom who led the team to prominence into an injury-prone player eating up valuable salary space for years to come? Longoria entered 2013 as the player the Rays needed the most, but also the player who could singlehandedly destroy them. Since then, though, Longoria has made the concerns dissipate and reestablished himself as the player the Rays can rely upon the most.
Last season was not perfect for Evan Longoria. Planar fasciitis in his right foot took him out for four games and was a major reason why he struggled so badly for a time in the second half. But all told, he played 160 games, hitting to a .269/.343/.498 line (133 OPS+) with 39 doubles, 32 homers, and 88 RBI, delivering exactly the type of season the Rays needed from him. And with a full season under his belt for the first time since 2010, the Rays expected him to be stronger and more consistent in 2014. It remains to be seen how Longoria’s season will turn out, but thus far he has played in all 18 of their games, managing a .348/.413/.500 line. On Saturday, Longoria drilled his second home run of the season and officially cemented himself as the hero of Tampa Bay once again.
Longoria’s homer was the 164th of his career, passing Carlos Pena for the Rays record. Had Longoria been healthy, he easily could have gotten there last season, but that was the last thought on anyone’s mind. Longoria was the player who had led the Rays from a seemingly unremitting stint in last place into one of the best teams in baseball, and now the record book confirms it. This can only be the start for Longoria. 164 home runs is nice, but Longoria better have many more in store if his career is going to end as expected. However, he reaches this first milestone with an entire city on his side and no reason to doubt that he is that same player we all knew he could be the entire time.