Rays News

Evan Longoria, Ben Zobrist Join Roster For Japan Series

By Drew Jenkins

Major League Baseball has begun to emphasize growing the game worldwide, not just in the United States. As a part of that, a team of MLB All-Stars is set to travel to Japan this November to play a five game series against the Japanese national team and two additional exhibition games. Two Tampa Bay Rays players will get a chance to be a part of that, as Evan Longoria and Ben Zobrist were recently named to the MLB roster for this series.

Zobrist was a solid contributor to the Rays once again in 2014, hitting .272/.354/.395 while appearing at five different positions. Zobrist has prior experience playing in international-type events, as he appeared for the United States in the 2013 World Baseball Classic, where he hit .273/.429/.273 in four games. Zobrist’s versatility makes him valuable in a series like this, and he will conceivably appear at multiple positions.

Longoria, meanwhile, does not have any prior experience playing in an international setting. The third baseman was disappointing this year, hitting .253/.320/.404 on the year. Longoria needs to make some mechanical adjustments with his swing, and this tournament could actually help him with that. Rather than spending all offseason in a batting cage and not being able to test out his swing adjustments in a game, Longoria will actually get a chance to see how his swing feels after a month or so of training and then he can apply that to the rest of his offseason. He will presumably man the hot corner for the U.S. squad.

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Other players joining Longoria and Zobrist on the roster include Bryce Harper, Justin Morneau, Jose Altuve, Albert Pujols, Adam Jones, Robinson Cano, and Yasiel Puig. The team was originally set to be managed by former Texas Rangers’ manager Ron Washington, but after the saga with his resignation the team will now be coached by John Farrell of the Boston Red Sox. It might seem to be a shoo-in that the MLB would win this series, but past international tournaments have shown us Japan is not a team to take lightly.

All in all, it is nice to see a couple of Rays get enough recognition to receive spots on this All-Star roster. If you are interested in following Zobrist and Longoria in this series, it will occur from November 11th-20th.