Third baseman in elite company with 9th season of at least 20 homers
By Connor Mount
ST. PETERSBURG -- Evan Longoria celebrated a milestone in Friday's 7-0 win over the Orioles, connecting on his 20th home run to put him in historic company.
Longoria reached 20 home runs for the ninth time in his first 10 seasons. Before Friday, only one third baseman had ever started his career in such an impressive manner: Hall of Famer Eddie Mathews, who eclipsed the mark in his first 14 years. The only American League third baseman to hit 20 homers nine times in his entire career was Graig Nettles.
"Special player, that basically sums it up," manager Kevin Cash said. "[Longoria] does it on the offensive side, defensive side, in the clubhouse. We're fortunate to have him."
Teammate Logan Morrison, who hit his 38th home run Friday, said he feels the same way.
"Even for a guy like myself, he's somebody to look up to, just the way he goes about his business, day in and day out," Morrison said.
Longoria, who turns 32 next week, spends plenty of extra time in the training room to make sure his body is fit enough to take the field each day. He played at least 160 games in each of the last four seasons, and he'll end up with at least 155 this year as well.
Sometimes that decision to play rather than sit and rest up can sap his offensive production. His .312 on-base percentage this season is the lowest of his career, for instance.
"I know his year, he's going to look back and say this wasn't maybe his strongest," Cash said. "But it's still a testament to him that he's grinding through it, he's out there, he plays through a bunch of injuries constantly. I'm glad he got [the home run] so now I can give him a day off tomorrow."
Morrison echoed the sentiment that Longoria won't look at this as his best season, but pointed out the third baseman still leads the team in RBIs, with 85 now.
"And I think if you ask anybody in here, who do you want up with the game on the line, you want him," Morrison said. "He battles. And I don't think he's felt great at the plate all year long, but to be able to put the numbers he has put up, it's been pretty impressive … It doesn't matter what's hurting, what's ailing. He's going to play, and he's probably going to do some damage. Really impressive and definitely glad I got to play with him for two years."
Connor Mount is a reporter for MLB.com based in St. Petersburg. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.