Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

Longoria Likes This Mix of Rays | Tampa Bay Third Baseman Has Been Impressed by Team's New Hitters

Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

Longoria Likes This Mix of Rays | Tampa Bay Third Baseman Has Been Impressed by Team's New Hitters

Article excerpt

SPRING TRAINING: TAMPA BAY RAYS

PORT CHARLOTTE -- The Tampa Bay Rays do not look at the moves which began in the offseason and continued Wednesday as a switch in philosophy from a pitching and defensive-minded team to a pitching and offensive-minded team. Tampa Bay has changed three spots: shortstop, first base and catcher, with players better known for their hitting rather than defense.

Acquired in a trade with Seattle, Brad Miller takes over at short for steady Asdrubal Cabrera, who left via free agency and signed with the New York Mets.

Also picked up in the same deal, Logan Morrison will share time with free agent signee Steve Pearce at first base after the dismissal of incumbent James Loney, who remains in limbo after being told Wednesday that he would not make the team.

Hank Conger, added in a deal with Houston, got the nod over last year's Opening Day starter Rene Rivera, to share catching duties with Curt Casali.

"I still think we're so strong pitching-wise, and that was one of the things that was less of a concern," third baseman Evan Longoria said of the defense. "There was more focus placed on putting together from the offensive group we have the best combination of pieces. They have proven year in and year out they can put together a pitching staff with guys who are relatively unknown out of the gate. They can turn them into good pitchers. Pitching we're more healthier and better than we were last year.

"We're in a really, really good spot overall."

Tampa Bay manager Kevin Cash does not see a drop off in defense at the three positions, despite Miller's early spring throwing woes and Conger's inability to throw out base stealers.

"We're very confident of our defense now," Cash said. "We still have to catch the ball when the games start, but going in we feel very confident. We know James Loney was a very good defender and does a really nice job of cleaning up errant throws in the infield. …

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