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Rays' Longoria fills in for injured Bartlett

ST. PETERSBURG —Rookie Evan Longoria had to fill in for SS Jason Bartlett a little sooner than expected.

Longoria started at short for the first time in about four years Thursday when Bartlett was scratched just before the game with a bruised left foot.

Bartlett was injured when he fouled a ball off of his foot during batting practice. Longoria was scheduled to get a stint at shortstop in the coming weeks as Bartlett's wife, Kelly, is due with the couple's first child.

Longoria, who has received rave reviews for his defensive play at third, last played shortstop during his sophomore year at Long Beach State in 2004 but said everything felt fine. As part of the shuffling, Willy Aybar moved to third, where he was the opening day starter, Eric Hinske went to first and Gabe Gross played right.

Longoria got his first putout in the third, moving right to charge a grounder by Ryan Theriot and throwing him out.

"It was exciting," Longoria said, "even though I know it's just on an emergency basis."

Bartlett had started 67 of the first 71 games. Manager Joe Maddon said he expects him to play tonight against Houston.

"I had treatment, and the swelling went down considerably," Bartlett said. "I should be good to go."

HICKEY'S HOUSTON: Rays pitching coach Jim Hickey cut his coaching teeth in the Astros organization, and though he said tonight's matchup with Houston will be like any other game, he appreciated the people who gave him his start.

Hickey, 46, spent 16 seasons as pitching coach with the Astros, the last two on the major-league staff. He was fired by Houston in October 2006 and hired by the Rays a month later.

"I learned everything from sweeping the floors at the factory all the way up to the pitching coach position," he quipped. "I had pitched and all that, but I didn't have any idea in terms of how to be a good coach or what was even required of me to be a good coach. I learned everything there."

Though there has been much turnover in the Astros organization since he left, he credited current pitching coach Dewey Robin­son, who "absolutely polished me up really good."

MEDICAL MATTERS: 1B Carlos Pena, on the disabled list with a fractured left index finger, continued to progress in his rehab, playing catch, taking infield and one-handed swings. Pena said he'll be evaluated again Sunday. "I was really letting it go," Pena said of throwing. "I feel great. I just can't wait (to get back)." … OF Rocco Baldelli will DH again today for Class A Vero Beach, and the Rays likely will decide afterward the next step in his rehab assignment. Baldelli, 3-for-6 as a DH in his first two games, is trying to come back after being sidelined by a rare condition that causes muscle fatigue in his legs.

BANGED-UP CUBS: Cubs ace Carlos Zambrano is scheduled to have an MR arthrogram today in Chicago after initial examinations of his injured right pitching shoulder did not yield a diagnosis. The MRA involves the injection of a radiopaque substance into the shoulder joint to allow greater detail of the scan. Manager Lou Piniella said he saw no possibility of Zambrano making his scheduled start Tuesday against Baltimore. Zambrano lost Wednesday for the second time in his past nine decisions.

MISCELLANY: The Rays signed three more draft picks: No. 8 2B Anthony Scelfo (Tulane), No. 11 RHP Bradley Furdal (Ancaster High in Ontario) and No. 28 RHP Thomas Rafferty (Arizona State). … Senior vice president Gerry Hunsicker was listed as a candidate for the vacant Mariners GM position, according to the Seattle Times.

Times staff writer Brant James contributed to this report.

Rays' Longoria fills in for injured Bartlett 06/19/08 [Last modified: Friday, June 20, 2008 4:19pm]

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