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Longoria makes successful return to Rays

Evan Longoria, in his first start since coming off the DL, hits a two-run single in the fifth inning of the opener.

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Evan Longoria, in his first start since coming off the DL, hits a two-run single in the fifth inning of the opener.

NEW YORK — 3B Evan Longoria returned to the Rays lineup in style Saturday afternoon, then took stylish to another level between games with a new Mohawk haircut.

Longoria, playing for the first time since Aug. 7, when his right wrist was fractured by a pitch, went 2-for-5, singling and scoring in the second and delivering a two-run single in the fifth.

More impressive was a diving stop and throw the rookie made to end the sixth when the Yankees had two on.

"Evan, that's kind of unique," manager Joe Maddon said. "To be gone that long, you can talk about the hits all you want, but the play down the line vs. (Xavier) Nady to me was maybe a turning point in that game. Few guys make that play, and then to throw that accurately, that was a big moment in today's game. And, of course, his at-bats were very good."

Not that Maddon was surprised at all.

"He's got this calmness about him, he's got this confidence about him, he's got a looseness about him which I like, especially this time of year," Maddon said. "I've been watching him getting himself ready for this moment and I could see him enjoying getting ready for the moment.''

Longoria — who, as planned, didn't start the night game — said he felt good, even after taking one bouncing ball off the wrist, and expects better.

"My timing is obviously a little off," he said. "There were a couple at-bats where maybe if I'm right I might hit the ball a little harder or hit it somewhere where they're not, but I can't complain. For a first day back, it felt as good as I expected it, and more."

PRICE CHECK: LHP David Price joined the Rays, capping a meteoric rise from Class A to the majors in 3½ months, and ready for a new challenge, such as pitching in a pennant race. Price will be used out of the bullpen, which is also something new, and said that won't be any big deal, either: "It's still pitching."

Maddon said he wouldn't be shy about how he used the 23-year-old. "I'm okay with pressure-packed with him. I'm not going to run away from that," Maddon said. "My bigger concern is to get him loose, to get him ready as a relief pitcher, that he has enough time."

OF Jonny Gomes also rejoined the team and said his swing had improved with regular at-bats at Triple-A Durham, where he hit .252 with two homers and 14 RBIs in 26 games.

CARLOS HUSTLE: 1B Carlos Pena made an extraordinary, though unsuccessful, effort for a foul ball in a key moment in the nightcap, diving over the rolled tarp and landing between the tarp and stands.

FILLING IN: Officially, the Rays list the starter for Wednesday's potentially key game against Boston as undecided. The choices would appear to be bringing back Matt Garza, who was limited to five innings and 83 pitches Saturday night, on three days' rest (one less than normal) or one of the recent callups: Price, Mitch Talbot or Jeff Niemann. A decision is expected by Monday.

MEDICAL MATTERS: RHP Troy Percival (stiff back) said he felt better, but Maddon said he wasn't sure what that meant in terms of availability. … CF B.J. Upton (left quad strain) remains sidelined, with hopes to return Monday.

HURRICANE WATCH: Scott Kazmir stayed up until around 4 a.m. Saturday talking to his parents, who in the face of Hurricane Ike moved from their Houston home to his newer and more secure house about 15 minutes away. "It's just scary," he said. "I was watching the news the entire time." Kazmir hadn't been able to reach them for an afternoon update because the cell phone circuits were busy.

MISCELLANY: INF Ben Zobrist and OF Fernando Perez were the only two Rays to start both games. … Tickets remain for all three Red Sox games at the Trop, but the Rays advise fans to buy early to avoid long lines. … New backup C Michel Hernandez made his second career big-league start and first since Sept. 26, 2003.

Longoria makes successful return to Rays 09/13/08 [Last modified: Monday, September 15, 2008 3:39pm]
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