Evan Longoria was frustrated. The Rays third baseman, an American League All-Star in each of his first three Major League seasons, simply wasn't hitting the way he knows he can.
07/01/2011 1:49 PM ET
Evan Longoria has his swing back
Rays third baseman now feels comfortable at plate
By Bruce Lowitt / MLBPLAYERS.com
He decided to attack the problem with his own bare hands -- literally. He discarded his batting gloves and rediscovered the hitting and power that had been missing for much of his season.
"Confidence is such a huge part of this game," Longoria said. "You get a couple of hits and feel like your swing's back where it needs to be."
There always have been Major League players who made hitting look so easy -- Ted Williams, Darryl Strawberry, Ken Griffey Jr., Joe DiMaggio and plenty more. But finding and keeping that perfect, fluid swing can be elusive. It can come and go as quickly as the next pitch.
"A lot of times when you get into those streaks where you can't find your swing and you don't feel comfortable, it's easy to snowball," Longoria said. "Easy to go week after week with no clue what you're doing.
"I felt lost. Obviously, when you're not getting the results, there's a feeling of not really knowing what you're doing out there."
Longoria's season had begun badly -- he spent a month on the disabled list with a strained muscle on his left side. Seven weeks after returning to the lineup he was batting just .226 when the Rays opened a three-game series at Houston.
The bare-handed result: an 8-for-14 weekend with three home runs and 10 RBIs.
He took batting practice without his gloves in the June 24 opener. Longoria said the feel of the bat definitely was better. Still, he wore batting gloves in the first inning and grounded out.
In the third, Longoria batted without gloves for the first time since 2008, he said, and drove the ball 420 feet into the left-center field stands. Two innings later, he punched an RBI single to right.
"There are so many thoughts in your head when things aren't going right that you're pretty much willing to try everything," he said. "It was like, 'The gloves aren't working, and I felt OK hitting without them before the game, so I might as well try something new.'"
The next night he hit a pair of RBI doubles and scored twice. He was saving his best for last. On June 26, he went 4-for-6 with five RBIs on a two-run homer in the sixth inning and a monster three-run blast in the ninth.
"The handle of the bat feel a little bit thinner," he said, "and it makes it feel like you can control the bat a little bit more."
With his swing "back to where it was the middle of last year," he said, Longoria put the gloves on again. Batting barehanded was beginning to take its toll.
"When you get jammed or hit off the end of the bat," he said, "you really do notice it a lot more. I didn't have a choice. My hands were hurting too much."
Not that much, though, as he hit a walkoff home run against the Reds two nights later.
"When you're not hitting, it's more mental than physical probably 80 percent of the time," Longoria said. "I'm finally happy to smile for real."
Bruce Lowitt is a freelance writer based in Tampa, Fla.