ST. PETERSBURG -- Over the past couple weeks, Rays manager Joe Maddon has made a point of shuffling players in and out of the lineup, spreading around off-days for his prominent starters.
Almost every player has received a break, except Evan Longoria, Tampa Bay's All-Star third baseman who has played almost every game this season and wouldn't have it any other way.
When asked how many games he expects Longoria to start the rest of the way, Maddon replied, "As much as he can chew."
That's the image the 23-year-old two-time All-Star wants to project -- an everyday starter, literally.
"He wants to be that guy," Maddon said.
Longoria has played in 144 of the team's 149 games this season, and it would've been more if not for a hamstring injury that sidelined him in early June. The tight left leg cost him five starts but lingered far longer, as his offensive numbers dipped in June and July. He had only eight RBIs in June and batted just .189 in July.
In September, though, he has surged again, hitting .371 with six home runs and 17 RBIs. He was recently named American League Player of the Week for the third time this season, after batting .467 with 10 RBIs.
As the season has begun winding down, Maddon has liberally adjusted the lineup, providing off-days for everyday starters like B.J. Upton, Jason Bartlett, Ben Zobrist and Carl Crawford. The steadfast starter has been Longoria, and that will likely be the case unless there's a dramatic need for rest.
It's a safe bet, though, that Longoria doesn't want that to be the case.
And Maddon projects a day in the future when he's playing 162 games a year.
"Obviously the legs look a lot better, and I think he learned a good lesson also in regards to offseason conditioning coming into this year -- making sure that doesn't happen to him again," Maddon said. "So yeah, he could be that guy."
Zach Schonbrun is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.