OAKLAND, Calif. — Evan Longoria isn't quite ready to end his rehab assignment and rejoin the Rays, but manager Joe Maddon spoke as optimistically as he has in months about the slugger's return to the lineup.
"It's moving along pretty nicely," Maddon said. "It's very exciting. I am encouraged."
Longoria on Monday played his fourth game, in a five-day span, as the DH for Triple-A Durham, going 1-for-3 with a walk. Overall, Longoria is 2-for-12 with four walks.
When Longoria headed to Durham last week, Maddon said his rehab assignment would last only three to four games, but he has since revised that. The soonest Longoria would join the Rays would seem to be when they return home Friday.
"When exactly I'm not sure," Maddon said, "but I know he's making progress and he's feeling good."
The plan to limit Longoria to DH duties has apparently worked, as Maddon said the reports on his left hamstring, which was partially torn April 30, have been positive.
"He's getting better," Maddon said. "We've been very cautious on his rehab assignment. The reports daily are that he's feeling good. He felt really good (Monday). There's been no setbacks, and that's been a good thing."
The reports on Longoria aren't the only good ones.
• DH Luke Scott on Monday took swings — about 30, albeit with the ball on a tee — for the first time since going back on the DL July 21 with a mild oblique strain. He remains confident he will return "around" his Sunday eligible date. Given the progression of drills he has to get through, and another short rehab assignment, a target of the end of next week is probably more realistic.
• RHP Jeff Niemann looked sharp in another bullpen session and is set to throw a simulated game Friday, with the plan, if all goes well, to head out on a rehab assignment of three or four starts that would have him back in the rotation before the end of August. "He threw the ball really well and he came out smiling broadly, feeling very good about it," Maddon said.
SICK BAY: RHP Jeremy Hellickson, who threw up several times while pitching Sunday, said he felt "a little better" and was able to eat, as well as run around a bit on the field playing Frisbee before batting practice.
A GAME: RHP James Shields feels he is pitching better than his results have shown and expects a payoff soon. "Last start (in Baltimore on Thursday) I thought I pitched pretty well considering it was pretty hot," he said. "I gave up two hits and they cost five runs, unfortunately that was the case and I walked a couple guys. Other than that I feel really good. We've been trying to stay consistent with the routine and I think I'm pitching okay right now. Hopefully I can get on a nice little roll these last two months here."
MISCELLANY: The 23 scoreless innings streak the Rays took into Monday's game was one shy of the team record, set May 8-11, 2008. … Montgomery RHP Alex Colome was named the Double-A Southern League's pitcher of the week after going 2-0, 1.15.