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Rays nab Gold Glove noms at every infield spot

Loney, Zobrist, Escobar, Longoria announced as finalists for defensive honor

ST. PETERSBURG -- Rays manager Joe Maddon predicted back in Spring Training that Yunel Escobar could be a Gold Glove shortstop in his first year with the Rays. When Ben Zobrist settled in at second base, Maddon said nobody played the position better.

James Loney came to Tampa Bay last offseason known for his Gold Glove-caliber ability at first base, and third baseman Evan Longoria received the honor in 2009-10, proving his defensive prowess.

Fittingly, playing for a team built around its pitching and defense, these four Rays infielders were named Rawlings Gold Glove Award finalists on Friday morning. The winners will be announced Tuesday night at 8 p.m. ET on ESPN2.

Loney is up against Baltimore's Chris Davis and Kansas City's Eric Hosmer. Zobrist's competition at second base comes from the American League East: New York's Robinson Cano and Boston's Dustin Pedroia. Longoria joins Texas' Adrian Beltre and Baltimore's Manny Machado as the top three third basemen. Escobar is up against Kansas City's Alcides Escobar and Baltimore's J.J. Hardy.

Rawlings will formally incorporate sabermetric analysis into their awards for the first time, but each of the Rays up for the honor certainly passed the eye test as well. Look no further than the second inning of Game 4 of the AL Division Series, when Loney jumped to snag a line drive and made a sharp, off-balance throw to Escobar at second, completing the double play and getting the Rays out of an early bases-loaded jam.

Escobar, Zobrist and Loney teamed up for the Rays' most memorable defensive play of the season on July 24 at Fenway Park. Pedroia knocked a ball up the middle, but Escobar ranged to his left, scooped the ball into his glove and flipped it behind his back to Zobrist. The second baseman caught it with his bare hand and relayed it to first for the double play.

The Rays' infielders put up the numbers to back Maddon's frequent praise, too. Escobar led all Major League shortstops with a .989 fielding percentage, recording only three errors in his last 108 games. Zobrist's .993 fielding percentage was tied with Pedroia for highest in the AL among second basemen. Longoria's .972 mark ranked second in the AL behind Machado (.973). And Longoria called Loney (.995 fielding percentage) "probably the best [first baseman] I've played with."

Advanced defensive metrics aren't considered to be as reliable as most offensive numbers, but the Rays graded well on that front, too. Longoria finished second in the AL with 12 defensive runs saved, albeit far behind Machado's 35. Loney ranked fourth with four, ahead of both other finalists at his position.

Zobrist's seven defensive runs saved ranked seventh in the AL behind Pedroia (15), but just ahead of Cano (six). Escobar also finished seventh in the league with four defensive runs saved, tying him with the Royals' Escobar, but Hardy posted eight.

The complete list of finalists:


Mark Buehrle, Blue Jays
R.A. Dickey, Blue Jays
Doug Fister, Tigers

Joe Mauer, Twins
Salvador Perez, Royals
Matt Wieters, Orioles

First base
Chris Davis, Orioles
Eric Hosmer, Royals
James Loney, Rays

Second base
Robinson Cano, Yankees
Dustin Pedroia, Red Sox
Ben Zobrist, Rays

Third base
Adrian Beltre, Rangers
Evan Longoria, Rays
Manny Machado, Orioles

Alcides Escobar, Royals
Yunel Escobar, Rays
J.J. Hardy, Orioles

Left field
Yoenis Cespedes, A's
Andy Dirks, Tigers
Alex Gordon, Royals

Center field
Lorenzo Cain, Royals
Jacoby Ellsbury, Red Sox
Adam Jones, Orioles

Right field
Nick Markakis, Orioles
Shane Victorino, Red Sox
Josh Reddick, A's


Patrick Corbin, D-backs
Zack Greinke, Dodgers
Adam Wainwright, Cardinals

A.J. Ellis, Dodgers
Russell Martin, Pirates
Yadier Molina, Cardinals

First base
Paul Goldschmidt, D-backs
Adrian Gonzalez, Dodgers
Anthony Rizzo, Cubs

Second base
Darwin Barney, Cubs
Brandon Phillips, Reds
Mark Ellis, Dodgers

Third base
Nolan Arenado, Rockies
Juan Uribe, Dodgers
David Wright, Mets

Ian Desmond, Nationals
Andrelton Simmons, Braves
Troy Tulowitzki, Rockies

Left field
Carlos Gonzalez, Rockies
Starling Marte, Pirates
Eric Young Jr., Mets

Center field
Carlos Gomez, Brewers
Andrew McCutchen, Pirates
Denard Span, Nationals

Right field
Jay Bruce, Reds
Jason Heyward, Braves
Gerardo Parra, D-backs

Adam Berry is a reporter for Follow him on Twitter at @adamdberry.

Tampa Bay Rays, Yunel Escobar, James Loney, Evan Longoria, Ben Zobrist