OAKLAND, Calif. — Just when the news was encouraging about Evan Longoria's potential return to the Rays lineup, he felt soreness in his left hamstring Tuesday and will take two days off before resuming his rehab assignment at Triple-A Durham on Thursday.
Rays manager Joe Maddon acknowledged the change in scheduling likely would push Longoria's return back into next week at the earliest, but he maintained it was not a setback.
"I'm not discouraged by the soreness," Maddon said. "I think that's natural. Sometimes soreness is a good thing. There's a part of soreness that means something's getting better, too. So as long as it's not pain and it's not pulling — those are the words I would not want to hear."
Maddon also revealed that the Rays aren't expecting Longoria to be in the lineup every day when he comes back, even when limited to the DH role. Twice since joining Durham, Longoria has played two games then reported soreness and needed time off, and Maddon said the Rays may have to follow a similar schedule, perhaps using him as a pinch-hitter along the way.
"If we could get him back where he could play for a couple, three days in a row and then you have to give him a day off, that'd be fine," Maddon said.
Tuesday was the 81st game the Rays played without Longoria, which is half a season, and they were 38-42 in the first 80. They were 15-8 with him.
CONRAD OUT: INF Brooks Conrad was a victim of Monday's 15-inning 4-3 loss, as the Rays optioned him to Triple A so they could add RHP Josh Lueke to bolster their bullpen, which was emptied to cover 72/3 innings.
Lueke, 1-3, 4.73, was probably not the first choice, but RHPs Brandon Gomes and Dane De La Rosa both worked multiple innings for Durham on Monday and LHP Cesar Ramos is now being used as a starter.
Conrad, 3-for-his-last-37 and hitting .172 overall, seemed the likely choice to go down when Longoria returned anyway. He has to stay in the minors for a minimum of 10 days (barring injury) so once the bullpen is back to full rest, Maddon said it's "logical" for the Rays to bring up another position player. INFs Will Rhymes and Reid Brignac would be among the candidates.
ABOUT MONDAY NIGHT: Maddon said there wasn't anything he would have done differently in the 4-3 15-inning marathon loss in which the Rays struck out 21 A's but managed only eight hits.
That included not bunting after the Rays opened the 14th with two singles, and having Conrad pinch-hit for Matt Joyce against LHP Jerry Blevins. Conrad struck out.
The A's broke through in the 15th against RHP Kyle Farnsworth when Brandon Inge singled and moved up on a bunt, Seth Smith was walked intentionally and Eric Sogard unintentionally and Jemile Weeks delivered a sac fly over the Rays' five-man infield.
MISCELLANY: The 230 July strikeouts by Rays pitchers through Monday were the most by an AL team since the 1964 Indians. … INF Jeff Keppinger said he warmed up well in the bullpen — with his fastball hitting 85 mph — and would have welcomed the chance to pitch had Monday's game gone on. … INF Elliot Johnson said he got hundreds of entries to the first of his weekly Tuesday Twitter contests (@ElliotJohnson9) to guess the lineup.