Rays Notes: Evan Longoria, James Shields Go At It, Kazmir Scratched From Start Vs. Rays

By Robbie Knopf

In the weeks and months after James Shields left the Rays, we seemed to hear endlessly about his mentorship of the Rays’ young pitchers and leadership in the clubhouse. At the end of the day, though, most of us have no idea what really goes on in big league clubhouses. Was our pitcher of Shields wrong? Evan Longoria suggested just that back on Monday, describing the Rays as in “a better mental state” without Shields and B.J. Upton.

"“There was a lot of history with B.J. and Shields and this organization, and I think there were some things that it was tough for them to get beyond,” Longoria said. “They were really the only ones that were left in here that were here before the Rays were (renamed) in 2008, when we started to be the team that we are now.“And I think some of those things kind of stuck around, and as much as you try to instill the new way, some of those things, it was tough to get some of those thoughts out of their head. And so, I think, obviously they were great players, but as far as an over-arching belief in what we try to do here, I think with the new people that we have now, it’s a completely new belief in what we’re trying to do here.”"

What? I guess with B.J. that isn’t so surprising. B.J. was loved by Rays fans overall, but he certainly had his enigmatic moments and his time in Tampa Bay was far from squeaky clean. But Shields? If there’s anything to gripe about, it was that his reputation as “Big Game James” got out of hand- especially in 2010, he wasn’t always that good and may have weighed the tema down with his steadfast belief in himself and inability to make adjustments. In any event, Shields certainly did not like hearing Longoria’s comments.

"“I’m a little disappointed Evan would say that,” Shields said Wednesday from Chicago. “I think my time over there was great. I think I was a pretty decent leader over there.”"

It’s a natural tendency of fans to vilify players after they leave. Could we be seeing Longoria doing some of that here and trying to exaggerate Shields’ faults to inspire the team? Will Longoria respond to Shields’ comments? Things are getting a little crazy now, and when the Rays face Shields and the Royals, tensions might flare and we’ll have to see what happens.

Speaking of facing well-known former Rays, unfortunately that will have to wait with Scott Kazmir as the Indians scratched him from his start Saturday with an ankle injury, and Kazmir may end up on the 15-day DL. Indians manager Terry Francona did acknowledge that the Indians were being cautious with Kazmir as he makes his long-awaited return to the major leagues. Kazmir called it “ironic” that he was going to be making his debut against the Rays, and that may even more the case after injuries ruined the last couple years of his run in Tampa Bay. That being said, it’s nice to see that the Indians think Kazmir is talented enough to warrant being careful with, and best of luck to Kazmir when he finally does make his season debut.