Longoria connects for first spring homer
Prized prospect blasts one out while pinch-hitting in eighth
FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Fans who hung around until the late innings of Tuesday afternoon's Rays-Twins tilt were rewarded with a glimpse of something Rays fans hope to see a lot of this season: Evan Longoria's power.
Pinch-hitting for Jonny Gomes in the top of the eighth inning, Longoria connected on an 0-1 pitch from Twins right-hander Juan Rincon and drove the ball over the wall in left-center field for his first home run of the spring.
"Nice pinch-hit at-bat," Rays manager Joe Maddon said. "Then he hit a rocket to the second baseman [in his final at-bat]. Just a nice little flick of the bat, and he got the ball up in the air. Sitting around all day and having a good at-bat, that's not easy."
Maddon seemed more impressed by Longoria's blast than the rookie did.
"Obviously it wasn't planned, but the wind was blowing out and it got up under it a little bit," Longoria said. "I think it was a little slider or cutter."
Still one of the biggest questions in Rays camp remains whether Longoria, the organization's top prospect, will break camp with the team and be the Opening Day third baseman. The Rays No. 1 pick in the 2006 First-Year Player Draft (third overall) isn't fretting about the decision being made.
"Whenever they make the decision, I'll be ready," Longoria said. "It's not like I'm counting the days to wait for the decision. It's solely up to them and I can't worry about that."
Longoria looks comfortable, which he says has been the case all along this spring.
"Honestly, I've been comfortable since Day 1," Longoria said. "Coming into the clubhouse, we have a pretty different look this year. There's a lot of leadership in the clubhouse and it's a totally different feel. I've been pretty comfortable since I got here."
Longoria is hitting .389 this spring with a homer and five RBIs in nine games.
Rays fans also got an extra treat in the ninth inning as David Price, the top pick of the 2007 Draft, made his second appearance for the Rays and retired the Twins in order.
Bill Chastain is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.