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Rays take struggling Longoria out of starting lineup

TORONTO — One of the concerns the Rays had about promoting 3B Evan Longoria to the majors was how he would handle the struggles that any 22-year-old faces.

With Longoria in a 2-for-22 slump and his average at .221, manager Joe Maddon took him out of the starting lineup Thursday, figuring relaxing during batting practice and watching the game might help, even for part of what became a long night.

Longoria, who came in in the seventh and went 1-for-3, agreed.

"It's more for my own mental thought process," he said. "I'm obviously putting a little more pressure on myself than I should be. I have my own expectations for myself, and when things aren't going to what I expect, I'm going to do more. I'm going to work harder pregame to get myself right. And I think I'm trying to do a little too much right now, and Joe sees that."

Longoria started the first 23 games since his April 12 promotion, and though he said he'd never ask for a break, "it's something that probably is needed right now."

Maddon said a day off when the rest of the team is playing has more benefit than a day when the whole team is off.

"It kind of piques something within you and you definitely want to be out there, and you know you can do that and it brings back something," he said.

CALLING ALL ANGELS: The Angels come to the Trop among the AL's best at 22-14, and Maddon said his old team and current team play much the same way, with good pitching, speed and defense.

"It's a pretty even kind of situation," he said. "The way we're playing right now, it's more of a mirror image of that team than at any time we've had over the last few years."

The matchup is always special for Maddon and will be too for Troy Percival, who last saw the Angels on April 2, 2007, when he threw out the ceremonial first pitch to mark his retirement. But going back to Anaheim next month, Percival said, "will mean a lot more to me."

SHIELDS UP: RHP James Shields is something of a competitive cuss on a typical game day. But going into tonight's start coming off one of his worst ever?

"He holds himself to such a high standard, and that just was not acceptable to him," Maddon said. "You could just see him walking around the last couple days — 'Just don't mess with me.' I can appreciate that, so I really expect him to be very focused."

REHAB REPORT: DH Cliff Floyd (right knee surgery) is likely to take batting practice at the Trop today and be re-evaluated after playing four consecutive days in extended spring with no problems. INF Ben Zobrist (fractured left thumb) went 1-for-3 and played third for Class A Vero. Both could be activated by next week. So could RHP Gary Glover (shoulder) and RHP Al Reyes (biceps tendinitis), who will throw bullpens Saturday.

MINOR MATTERS: Advanced Class A RHP Jeremy Hellickson was named the Rays minor-league pitcher of the month after going 2-0 with a 0.93 ERA in five starts with 41 strikeouts and two walks. Class A Columbus CF Emeel Salem was named the top player after hitting .288 and stealing a pro-baseball-high 21 bases (in 24 attempts). RHP Jeff Niemann, out with shoulder stiffness since being sent down April 21, is scheduled to pitch three innings for Triple-A Durham tonight. … OF Desmond Jennings, who was out with back issues, is now out indefinitely with a sore left shoulder.

MISCELLANY: Carlos Pena hit his AL-high matching eighth homer. … LF Carl Crawford, who has played every game, got a "mini" day off as the DH. … RHP Evan Meek, a Rule 5 draft pick by the Pirates, cleared waivers, and the teams are discussing a deal to keep him in Pittsburgh. … The Rays sent Shields home Thursday so he'd be well-rested.

Rays take struggling Longoria out of starting lineup 05/08/08 [Last modified: Friday, May 9, 2008 5:40pm]
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