Maddon focused on protecting Longoria in lineup

PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. -- Joe Maddon's priority when writing out his lineups this season will be finding protection for Evan Longoria. The Rays manager noted there are candidates from both sides of the plate to set it up and to protect.

"Luke [Scott], Matt Joyce is a possibility for something like that also," Maddon said. "It could even be [Yunel] Escobar, I don't know. It could be Zobrist. The point is to try and get people on in front of him and then protect him. You're going for the high on-base percentage guys in front of him, and then you're going for somebody who will cause the other team to pitch to him. It's pretty simple. It's not a big secret. Everybody tries to do that with one hitter on their team."

Having Scott return to the form he had before getting injured while playing for the Orioles would be beneficial to the cause.

"It could definitely make a difference," Maddon said. "And even Matty Joyce. … If it's against a proper right-handed pitcher, Matt could definitely make them pitch to Longo also. All those things are to be considered."

Meanwhile, seeing Longoria playing and feeling well goes a long way toward how Maddon feels about this year's team.

"He looks good and it does help, because trying to fill that spot is really hard," Maddon said. "You can fill other spots, but that one is really hard to manipulate. It's really good to see him doing well."