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Longoria's monster April nets him hardware

Longoria's monster April nets him hardware

ST. PETERSBURG -- Evan Longoria is the American League's Player of the Month.

Tampa Bay's third baseman, already a two-time winner in April of the AL Player of the Week honors, has followed that up as the logical recipient of Sharp Presents the American League Player of the Month.

"It's very special," Longoria said. "Like I always say, I'd take a win over anything and I'd much rather us be in first place. The personal accomplishments are something that I'll be able to treasure by myself for the rest of my life."

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The 2008 AL Rookie of the Year hit .369 during April, with six homers and 24 RBIs -- which tied him for the league lead and equaled the Tampa Bay record for the month.

Longoria's dominating month also included Major League-highs for doubles (11), extra-base hits (17) and total bases (60).

Ever since his arrival to the Rays early in the 2008 season, Longoria has come up big time and again and has received many accolades. Despite the many opportunities to fall in love with who he has become, Longoria seems to be the same guy he was when he first came to the team.

"I constantly try to humble myself," Longoria said. "If you don't, I'm sure that the game is going to find a way to humble you. Like I always say, I've got to come to the ballpark and do the same things. And treat everybody the same and try to keep things as simple and plain as possible. I think the minute you start filling your head with those kinds of things it's going to be the downfall of anything that's going good. So I try to keep myself humble and stay grounded."

Longoria feels like he's continuing to improve, even though he offers, "It's very slight." He is particularly pleased with the strides he has made when it comes to being selective at the plate.

"I've been focusing on my pitch selection," Longoria said. "And that was one of the biggest things coming from last year to this year was trying to cut down my strikeouts and trying to pick better pitches to hit. And I think it's really translated. I've gotten some good pitches to hit in situations and I think that's why my RBI production has been so good. I've been swinging at good pitches."

Teammate Carlos Pena hits in the fourth spot in the Rays' lineup, right behind Longoria, and was happy for Longoria, who became the first Rays player to win the award.

"It's very well deserved," Pena said. "He's been amazing. Ever since he got here last year, he's been a force for our lineup [and] for our team with the glove and especially with the bat.

"It seems like every day he comes up with a crazy play, like coming up with a slow roller that just amazes me. So not surprised, but very happy, very excited for him, just very grateful that I get to see it on a daily basis."

Pena cited Longoria's at-bat against Boston's Justin Masterson Friday night that resulted in a grand slam as a study in excellence.

"In the past, [Masterson] had been pretty tough on him," Pena said. "And that particular at-bat he had two strikes on him. And [he] had not looked very pretty against Masterson. He had been very difficult on him. Yet I saw him step out, take a deep breath, kind of shrug his shoulders.

"I'm just thinking what's going on inside him, that he's saying, 'there's only one thing I can do and that's trust my ability.' That's what it seemed like to me. And sure enough, on the next pitch he hits it out. And that to me is huge, how can you slow it down so much when everything is so quick around you. Situation, we're down, bases loaded, he's got two strikes, there's two outs. You know we need a big hit. ... And yet he still has the presence of mind to slow it down and say, 'I'm just going to see this ball and put the barrel on it.' ... He's just a kid. That's what's so impressive."

Runner-up in the selection process was Kevin Youkilis. The Boston first baseman matched Longoria's .369 average, with five home runs and a league-leading .505 on-base percentage.

Also receiving votes were Toronto second baseman Aaron Hill (.365-5-20), Peña (nine homers, 24 RBIs) and Yankees second baseman Robinson Cano (.366, 18 runs).

Bill Chastain is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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