Longoria inks 9-year deal to stay with Rays

The Tampa Bay Rays are setting a trend that many small to mid-market teams are likely to follow by locking up young stars to long-term deals. The team just locked up Evan Longoria to an unprecedented 9-year contract. Ted Fleming of Rays Digest reports from Tropicana Field.

ST. PETERSBURG - He wears uniform number three but now he can lay claim to the number nine.

Just six days into his big league career, former #1 draft pick Evan Longoria signed a whopping nine-year deal with the Tampa Bay Rays, the longest such deal in franchise history.

While it is close to the length of that given to the Yankees' star Alex Rodriguez, the value is quite different with Longoria getting the first six years guaranteed and if the subsequent three years worth of options are picked up, the total will be worth $44 million.

"I've played this game for a long time, obviously, and I don't think the game changes at all," Longoria said. "So if I keep that same approach and keep going about my business the same way I do every day, I don't think money, contract talks, anything like that has any weight on how I perform."

The 22-year old Californian will donate up to $725,000 to the Rays Baseball Foundation over the life of the contract. The foundation supports youth and education programs in the Tampa Bay region.

"In his first two years in professional baseball, Evan has displayed the talent, work ethic and maturity that we envisioned when we drafted him in 2006. The fans of Tampa Bay should be excited to know that Evan will be in a Rays uniform for at least the next nine seasons. It is another demonstration of our commitment to developing and retaining our burgeoning group of talented players," said Rays Executive Vice President, Baseball Operations Andrew Friedman.

Longoria batted .262 (11-42) with three home runs, 10 RBI, a .407 on-base pct. and a .595 slugging mark in 20 games with the Rays in spring training. He began the season at AAA Durham before he was promoted to the major league club on April 12 when Willy Aybar was placed on the 15-day disabled list.

Longoria was taken by the Rays as the third overall selection in the 2006 June Amateur Draft and has been successful at every minor league stop on his way to the big leagues. He has made stops at Hudson Valley, Visalia, Montgomery and Durham and in 198 games combined for a .304 average with 44 homers and 153 RBI. He also recorded 43 doubles.

Despite putting up solid numbers in spring, he was sent to Durham where he got off to a slow start. However, in sticking to what manager Joe Maddon said at the beginning of camp, the third-sacker will be judged on a number of factors. Now he is not only in the majors but has a lengthy contract in his back pocket.

"I don't think he'll ever back off," Maddon said about Longoria and giving a long term deal to such a young player. "He's a baseball player. He's a very good athlete but a very good baseball player. He's been raised in the baseball world well. I have a lot of confidence and faith that he'll continue to get better. I see it having no impact on him at all."


DAY-TO-DAY BUT AREN'T WE ALL: The big stick in the middle of the Rays lineup had to leave Thursday's game in Minnesota with a hamstring issue but as it turns out it is not as bad as some feared.

"If we need him to pinch-hit tonight [he can] and we hope to get him in as the DH tomorrow," said Maddon. "I just wanted him to go real slow today. That's where we are right now. It scared him a little bit to have that kind of sensation."

ONLY A RUMOR: Al Reyes dispelled any thoughts that his arm woes were a direct result of his altercation at a local restaurant where the fell over a ceramic pot and was Tasered by the police not once but twice. The former closer and now setup man also said there was no connection between his past injuries and this one.

"When I first felt it I thought it would go away," he said. Like most pitchers they tend to believe they can work through twinges and little aches. "When I pitched the last time it got worse and I told the trainer and when they checked it they said it was just some inflammation. I was fine to pitch but I didn't want to push it. I'm used to pitching through pain."

The 37-year old expects to be ready to come off the DL when it expires.

NOW YOU'RE MINE: The Rays picked up first-baseman Dan Johnson off waivers from the Oakland Athletics today. The 28-year old had appeared in just one game for the A's this season with no hits in one at-bat. Johnson was drafted by Oakland in 2001 in the seventh round of the June Draft.

"I don't know when he's going to be here," Maddon said. "It might not be tomorrow. I understand it could be Sunday or even Monday. I have no specific plans for him right now. He's kind of a pull hitter and has shown some patience with power and a pretty good first baseman as well."

The team also announced that pitcher Calvin Medlock had been designated for assignment. The Rays have ten days to ask waivers on, trade or release the 25-year old righty who was with Durham. Medlock was 1-0 with a 1.08 ERA in six relief appearances with the Bulls.

ERIC THE GREAT: Over the last couple of years the Rays have had pretty good success adding players that were not figuring into their long term plans but somehow have managed to have an impact due to injuries or circumstances that have allowed them to play.

This year's nominee is Eric Hinske and he has a simple observation why it has all come back to him like it did in his rookie year with Toronto where he played 147 games hitting .262 while belting 15 HRs and driving in 68.

"Playing. That's the bottom line," he said about his early success. In 13-games thus far his average stands at .342 with a pair of round-trippers and four ribbies. "Last year I never played. It was once a week. It was tough to get in any kind of rhythm. Now I'm getting some consistent at-bats and try to help the team win."

Hinske signed a minor league deal with a spring invitation with no guarantees. He made the team but again there was little indication whether he would get enough trips to the plate to make such an impact.

"He (manager Joe Maddon) has given me a pretty good idea of what my role is going to be, letting me know when I will be in there. He's a good manager and great to play for. I'm having fun right now."

NOW PITCHING: Scott Kazmir will make a rehab start tonight for Vero Beach against the St. Lucie Mets and is expected to go 3-4 innings or 45 pitches. Dioner Navarro, also on the disabled list - with lacerations to his throwing hand - will be behind the plate to catch the lefty.

CHISOX KNOCKS: Outfielder Jerry Owens returned to the team following his rehab assignment and was optioned to AAA Charlotte. He was out with a torn right adductor ..... Entering today's game the Sox have won 9 of their last 13. They are also victorious in 5 of the last 6 road games ..... Chicago and Tampa Bay are scheduled to meet ten times this season, seven at Tropicana Field ..... The last time the White Sox were at the Trop they swept the Rays in a four game set (6/25-28/2007) and they did it despite striking out ten times or more in each of those contests. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, the last time that happened was when the Reds swept the Astros in 1972 at the Astrodome.


MINOR MATTERS (Organizational Record: 24-33, .421)
DURHAM (5-10): The Bulls have now dropped four straight after falling to Columbus Thursday night, 11-8. Lefty Mike Prochaska did not factor in the decision but was charged with seven-runs (6 earned) and nine hits over four frames. Jeremy Owens went yard for Durham, a three run shot in the fourth when the team scored all eight of their runs.

MONTGOMERY (6-8): The Smokies were doubled up by the Biscuits 10-5 as Richard De Los Santos gave up just one run in seven innings of work. The offense also contributed five long balls in support of De Los Santos. Sergio Pedroza, the league leader with 19 hits, hit his first of the year with two aboard. Gabriel Martinez also notched his first. Erold Andrus, Chris Nowak and Patrick Cottrell recorded HRs number two.

VERO BEACH (6-8): The Devil Rays eked out a 1-0 victory over the hammerheads Thursday with Matt Fields accounting for the only run with his second homer of the year. Matt Walker started and went five while Ryan Owen, Brian Baker and Ryan Reid combined for four scoreless in relief.

COLUMBUS (7-7): Did not play.

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