Matt Duffy: Evan Longoria 'fits into the Giants mold'

Matt Duffy: Evan Longoria 'fits into the Giants mold'

SAN FRANCISCO — When the Giants sent Matt Duffy across the country at the 2016 trade deadline, the Rays looked poised to have a talented Long Beach State duo on the left side of their infield for years to come. Sixteen months later, half of that pairing is headed back to the West Coast. 

Duffy remains in Tampa Bay, but Evan Longoria is now a Giant. He’ll be counted on to fill the hole left by Duffy’s original departure, one the Giants never came close to closing. Eduardo Nuñez was better suited as a utility man. Christian Arroyo and Ryder Jones didn’t take advantage of auditions. Pablo Sandoval returned and hit .225. 

Longoria is a short-term and long-term solution, a Gold Glove defender and power bat who looks poised to man Duffy’s old spot through the rest of this decade. Shortly after Wednesday’s deal, Duffy told NBC Sports Bay Area that he believes his former teammate — and fellow Long Beach product — “fits into the Giants mold" and is "extremely professional."

“He’s not going to take a day off unless the training staff hides his jersey and equipment,” Duffy said via text. 

That description sounds like … Matt Duffy. It’s what the aging Giants need at third base, too. Longoria is reliable, having played at least 160 games in four of the last five seasons. The outlier was 2017, when Longoria played 156 games. 

“He’s really a great athlete that’s taken care of himself,” vice president of baseball operations Brian Sabean said. “I think coming to our park, and our weather, with more days off in the baseball schedule, and getting him on grass — there are certain things we can do to maintain his consistency of play and the number of games per year he plays.”

Longoria also noted the difference in ballparks, saying he was glad to be now playing on grass instead of the turf in Tampa Bay. If he needs an added boost, he should get it from a fan base that once fully embraced Duffy. Asked what stood out about his new home, Longoria said he was very excited when he looked up the 2017 attendance numbers. Even though their sellout streak ended, the Giants still were the envy of almost every other MLB team in terms of attendance. 

“I looked at the attendance numbers and it was -- not shocking -- but pretty surprising to see even in a down year the amount of fans that came out,” Longoria said. “It’s going to be different. I’ve never showed up at a ballpark every day and had a sold-out crowd.”

Durable Longoria ready for additional boost from ballpark, Giants fans

Durable Longoria ready for additional boost from ballpark, Giants fans

SAN FRANCISCO — The field at AT&T Park is covered with patches and small piles of dirt right now, showing the signs of a winter hosting holiday parties and concerts, and a week with plenty of rain. 

For Evan Longoria, though, that grass was a beautiful sight.

A month after a trade that had him switching coasts, Longoria was introduced at a press conference at AT&T Park and ran the usual gauntlet with team employees and season-ticket holders. He spent some time this week looking for housing in the Bay Area, but soon he’ll be back in Scottsdale, getting to know new teammates and preparing his body for the 2018 season. 

Longoria said his workouts have been a bit different with a new staff, but the goal remains the same. He is a player who prides himself on taking the field every day, and that’s one of the traits that drew the Giants to Longoria. He has played at least 156 games in five consecutive seasons, and 160 in four of those seasons. 

It’s no accident that Bruce Bochy has mentioned durability during every media session this season. Andrew McCutchen has a similar track record, and the Giants lineup certainly could use some stability, especially at third base, where seven different players made double-digit starts last season. Longoria will change that. 

“I have a desire to play every day, and I think that that is infectious,” he said. “Players that may feel the grind of a long season or might be in a little bit of a funk offensively or defensively or with pitching, something like that can give you a boost when you have guys around that you know come to play and compete on a daily basis, no matter what the circumstance is.”

[RELATED: Just a number? Longoria says slow down with concerns of Giants' aging roster]

For Longoria, who turned 32 early in the offseason, the circumstance has changed for the better. After years on the unforgiving turf at The Trop, he comes to a park and division featuring nothing but natural grass. 

“I hope it helps,” he said. “Going on the road (with the Rays), my body definitely felt better when I played on grass. I’m sure that it will help. It’s definitely not going to be a negative. Not playing on the turf anymore is something that crossed my mind as soon as the trade happened.”

Longoria expects to benefit from another aspect of AT&T Park, too. The Rays finished dead last in the majors last year with an average of 15,670 fans per game. Even though their sellout streak ended, the Giants still had an average of more than 40,000 per night. Asked about playing outdoors, Longoria smiled and added, “in front of fans.”

“The environment here is obviously much different, so it’s going to be nice to step into that on a daily basis and play in front of a fan base that’s obviously very storied,” he said. “It helps with energy. It helps with motivation.”

McCutchen ready for more conversations with 'Steve the Seagull' at AT&T Park

McCutchen ready for more conversations with 'Steve the Seagull' at AT&T Park

Andrew McCutchen has been one of the best players in the National League for years now. The 31-year-old is a five-time All-Star and was named the 2013 NL MVP. 

Not only do his stats stand out, McCutchen is also one of the most entertaining players in baseball. And that's clearly going to continue in San Francisco. 

On Thursday, McCutchen was asked about the famous seagulls of San Francisco flying around the outfield at AT&T Park. 

"I definitely made a few friends out there over the years. Steve the Seagull out there, I know him," McCutchen said on KNBR. "He comes in every now and then. We have a little pow-wow when I come to San Francisco. Yeah, we get along well, me and the guys, me and the birds. They know when to come in that's for sure." 

Denard Span, who the Giants traded to acquire Evan Longoria, had a much different relationship with the seagulls. 

McCutchen is clearly the opposite of Span in this regard though. He seems about as calm as can be when it comes to the birds paying him a visit. 

"They chill, we have some conversations. It's all good," says McCutchen. 

One other aspect McCutchen can't wait for in the outfield at AT&T Park, is getting to know all the fans. Specifically, not being a part of a special chant Giants fans have for opposing outfielders. 

"I'm lookin' forward to fans not callin' me bums anymore," McCutchen said with a laugh. "I'm glad I'm on the winning side. I'm glad I'm on the San Francisco Giants side. I can't wait to meet all the fans."