BALTIMORE — As Rays third baseman Evan Longoria packed Wednesday before leaving for a minor-league rehab assignment tonight with Triple-A Durham, he left his teammates with some encouraging news: "See you soon."
Longoria, out since May 1 with a partially torn left hamstring, isn't sure how long the stint will last but said he'll work extensively at DH, allowing him to rejoin the Rays quicker.
"Finally get to play baseball again," Longoria, 26, said, smiling. "I haven't had any competitive at-bats in a while, so it's really going to be about how I swing the bat, how I feel in there."
Manager Joe Maddon, who estimated a rehab assignment would last 3-4 games maximum, said it'll be based "entirely" on how Longoria feels. Maddon said tonight's first start, at DH, will be very telling. Longoria said doctors assured him he can't make the injury worse, and while he'll have to deal with some pain and soreness, he can push through and play with it.
Longoria cut his previous rehab stint short in mid June after feeling discomfort, but the three-time All-Star said he has come a long way, spending the past three weeks strengthening the leg. He said that, offensively, he's as "ready as I'm going to be," with the issues continuing to be defense and acceleration on the bases. He is going to "take it easy" during rehab — Maddon hopes he doesn't slide — and acknowledges he won't be full speed when he returns to the Rays: "I just got to the point where I felt I can contribute in an offensive way. But the defense part is something that I will continue to build toward. My goal is that a week to two weeks, three weeks from now I can work a day, two, or three days defensively."
Joe Smith can be reached at [email protected]tampabay.com