Didn't expect Rays third baseman Evan Longoria to win the American League Gold Glove? That's okay. He didn't, either.
"To be honest with you, I was pretty surprised that I won," Longoria said Tuesday. "I always prepare myself to play defense every day. I guess I was just so disappointed in my overall year that I didn't really think that I'd have a chance to win, or did enough to win, or was good enough to win. It's always nice to be recognized."
But amid his struggles at the plate and the Rays late-season fade from playoff contention, Longoria's defense stood out enough to win gold for the third time, though first since 2010.
"The Gold Glove is one of the awards when I first started playing that I wanted to win," Longoria said. "So to win a third one is really cool."
Free-agent pitcher Alex Cobb was the Rays other finalist, but the award went to Toronto's Marcus Stroman.
The award is decided by a combination of votes from AL coaches and managers and one-fourth with a sabermetric component, which may have helped Longoria finish ahead of Baltimore's Manny Machado and Cleveland's Jose Ramirez.
"I didn't really feel like it may have been my best year defensively, per se, but I guess the numbers said otherwise," Longoria said.
"Earlier in my career the award was kind of a product of who had a good offensive year and played pretty good defense. Sabermetrics weren't as big. There weren't as many defensive metrics in place to kind of illuminate certain areas defensively that maybe were overlooked before. … I don't really even understand those metrics. But you're getting a truer example of guys that helped their teams defensively."
Longoria measured up well in the SABR Defensive Index, an aggregate of five metrics that is factored in, ranking first with a 6.5 while Ramirez was at 3.7 and Machado -2.5. Longoria also led with 11 defensive runs saved, as Machado had six and Ramirez none, and had fewer errors than Machado (12-14). Ramirez, who split time between third and second, had six errors at the hot corner.
"There's some great third basemen in the division and in the American League, so it's something I definitely don't take lightly and it's an honor to be ahead of those guys," Longoria said.
Rays manager Kevin Cash said the award is a just reward for the way Longoria played defensively despite his struggles at the plate, hitting .261 with 20 homers, 86 RBIs and a .737 OPS.
"It shows what he meant to our club on the other side of the ball," Cash said. "You want the ball hit to him. … You understand why he wins these awards when you watch him and see the amount of work he puts in even before (batting practice) starts, taking ground balls on his knees."
Rays centerfielder Kevin Kiermaier, who won the past two years, was ineligible due to time missed to injury.
The Rays promoted Joe Benge to head athletic trainer as part of a staff shuffle following the departure of Ron Porterfield to the Dodgers. Mark Vinson was promoted to top assistant and former top assistant Paul Harker shifted to a new medical coordinator post.
Benge (pronounced BENJ), 40, has been in the Rays organization for seven years, the last six as minor-league medical training coordinator, and also assisting the major-league staff. He was named the 2015 minor-league athletic trainer of the year by the Professional Baseball Athletic Trainers Society.
Contact Marc Topkin at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow @ TBTimes_Rays.