Maddon tries Longoria in leadoff spot

Maddon tries Longoria in leadoff spot

Maddon tries Longoria in leadoff spot
ST. PETERSBURG -- Evan Longoria got a surprise Saturday morning when Joe Maddon told the slumping third baseman that he had been moved into the leadoff spot.

The manager approached Longoria while the slugger was playing the drums in the vicinity of the Rays' clubhouse.

"I walked in and said, 'Promise you won't think I'm crazy,'" Maddon said. "And he looked at me like, 'I know that you are, so I can't promise that.'"

Maddon went on to give Longoria the news of his new spot in the lineup.

"He was expecting me to tell him I wanted him to hit lower in the batting order, I'm sure," Maddon said. "I said, 'I'd like you to hit leadoff.' And he gave me that Longo smile. And I said, 'I really believe this can help.' Then I gave him my entire explanation of how I wanted him to approach it. We'll see where it takes us. It could be a good thing, because he's very capable of doing all the things a leadoff hitter can do, too."

Longoria said the message he got from Maddon was to "just have some fun with it."

"And make the game maybe a little less tiring for me at this point," Longoria said. "Because I'm pressing a lot and it's more mental than physical. I feel fine. Your mind is a big part of this game. You know, just have a little fun with it, I mean, hopefully I start hitting there and stay there, whatever, get comfortable and moving back to where he wants me to be."

Longoria, who normally hits in the Nos. 3 and 4 spots, hit .333 (12-for-26) with two home runs and eight RBIs in his first 10 games after returning from the disabled list on May 3. In the 12 games prior to Saturday's since that 10-game hot streak, he had hit .133 (6-for-45).

Longoria responded to the move in the batting order with a single in his first at-bat and a solo home run to center field in his next as part of a 2-for-4 day.

"To be honest with you, it's another opportunity to start hitting somewhere," Longoria said prior to Saturday's game. "I'm probably going to get one, maybe two more at-bats in the game. At this point that's kind of what I need, to find some way to get back into the swing of things. Whether it's hitting in the leadoff spot, or hitting wherever Joe pencils me in. It's just about getting confidence back at this point, finding a way to get it done. Eventually I'm going to hit. And hopefully it's sooner than later."

Maddon has been in the professional game since 1975 and noted that Longoria is hardly the first player he's tried to get out of a slump by hitting him in the leadoff spot.

"Through my years of doing this, more of it in the Minor Leagues than in the Major Leagues, I've run into different situations," Maddon said. "Really good players, really good hiters that were struggling a little bit, and before you did anything else, I always liked to push them up in the batting order and actually lead them off.

"I did it with Tim Salmon in the Minor Leagues. I did it with another player you've never heard of, his name was Kevin King, had great results at Double-A. These are big, strong guys that you normally wouldn't see in the leadoff spot. I explained to Longo I wanted him to go out there today, work good at-bats, get on base, use all of his baseball skills and help us win a ballgame. And really try to give him a different outlook. Hopefully he's going to have some fun with it and see where it takes him."