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Clear head has Longoria confident about '16

Slugger admits putting too much pressure on himself affected results in 2015
MLB.com @wwchastain

PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. -- Evan Longoria got married during the offseason, he's practicing yoga again and he's hoping to figure out a better way to handle pressure heading into 2016.

On Tuesday morning, Longoria told reporters, in essence, that he no longer felt like he had to try and carry the team on his shoulders.

PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. -- Evan Longoria got married during the offseason, he's practicing yoga again and he's hoping to figure out a better way to handle pressure heading into 2016.

On Tuesday morning, Longoria told reporters, in essence, that he no longer felt like he had to try and carry the team on his shoulders.

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"Nobody wants to feel that pressure every day," Longoria said. "I think for me, I felt that a lot last year. I was hard on myself. And I know that's not the best thing for you, mentally. At the end of the season, that [stinks], you're tired. And sometimes, day to day, it's not as enjoyable as it could be being here because you're so mentally drained.

"So I guess it's more for me, trying to take the weight off myself and knowing that the rest of the guys are capable. That it's not like I'm trying to trick myself into doing things, or be a leader or whatever. I really feel like I don't have to be [that] anymore because we have guys who are capable."

Longoria gave a frank answer when asked if the pressure he felt last season manifested when he stepped to the plate.

"Probably, being realistic about it," Longoria said. "I'm not going to say no. Stress and pressure in this game are big factors. I think it's those times that you let them spiral out of control that it can get overwhelming. We talked about that so much last year. How do you not try to do too much when you [stink]? Or when you're going bad or the team's going bad."

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Rays manager Kevin Cash didn't feel as though Longoria's performance was affected by pressure last season.

"He's very critical of himself," Cash said. "Longo holds himself to a higher standard, and probably rightfully so. That's how we want all of our veteran players to do that."

Longoria currently is reading a book, "Cure: A Journey into the Science of Mind over Body," by Jo Marchant, which he would like to apply to his situation.

"First couple of hundred pages are about the placebo effect," Longoria said. "I'm kind of hoping that it's about learning how to trick our minds into believing, or feeling certain things.

"In this job, you're always trying to reduce stress, reduce pressure. Figure out a way to kind of get beyond it. It's probably shocking for people to hear that we are still nervous or anxious and feel the pressure that maybe a high school or college kid would feel in their first game. The reality of it is, it never goes away and that it's always new and it's something that is there."

Longoria noted that by admitting that he felt pressure might help "a younger kid to understand that what they're feeling or what they're going through" is nothing unusual.

"They're not alone," Longoria said. "We, as Major League players, still experience those things, too. And I think we're lying to ourselves if we say we're not. But I guess that book, or what I'm talking about is, how do I trick myself into believing that I'm not?"

Longoria remains the face of the Rays. The club controls him through 2023 and he'll make $12.1 million this season. While he remains the team's best offensive player, his numbers have declined. His best two seasons came when he hit .281 with 33 home runs and 113 RBIs in 2009, and the next year when he hit .294 with 22 home runs and 104 RBIs. Last season, Longoria hit .270 with 21 home runs and 73 RBIs.

When asked if he felt like he was as good of a player as he was five years ago, Longoria answered: "I think I am."

"Obviously, offensively I'd love to put up the numbers I did in 2009 and 2010, and I believe I'm capable of doing that still," Longoria said. "But it comes with an accumulation of work. It's not just going to happen again.

"I just have to try and figure out the formula again. It's like a new restaurant," he said, smiling before referencing his Tampa restaurant, Ducky's. "It's easy the first year. Then you have to figure out what works and kind of reassert yourself."

Longoria isn't concerned about individual achievement, rather "being a good player for this team."

"That's really all that matters," he said. "If I could hit one home run and it was a home run in the World Series that helped us win it, that was a successful year. ... The individual moments that help us win are way more important to me than regaining some spot or being considered one of the 10 best players."

Bill Chastain is a reporter for MLB.com.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Tampa Bay Rays