Tampa Bay Rays' Evan Longoria exits with tightness in side, hopes to play today

SEATTLE — Yes, 3B Evan Longoria admitted, the tightness he felt in his left side during Saturday's game was similar to what he felt before straining his left oblique April 2 and missing a month.

But the difference was that he left Saturday's game in the fourth inning before doing any further damage, and he felt good enough by the end that he is hoping to be back on the field today.

"It just felt tight," Longoria said. "There wasn't any specific play or any moment or anything that I felt. But I made a couple throws in that last inning and it just felt like the start of what I felt last time, and I didn't want to re-do that and take steps backward. I felt like I caught it at the right time.

"I was twisting and I was turning and everything fine, but I felt like at that point I might as well shut it down and come back (today) and hopefully just miss half a game instead of 10 or 20 or whatever it was the last time."

It was 26, and even though he has yet to find a groove, hitting just .239, it would be a huge blow to lose him again, as Longoria acknowledged. He plans to test it with swings in the batting cage this morning and doesn't expect the threat of injury to linger.

"Hopefully it was just a scare," he said. "Hopefully it's just a day-to-day thing."

PITCHING IN: The Rays made official what seemed obvious, that rookie RHP Alex Cobb would stay in the rotation and RHP Andy Sonnanstine would be bumped back to the bullpen.

Cobb will start Tuesday in Anaheim as the Rays continue the shuffling of their rotation in order to have their top three starters, David Price, James Shields and Jeremy Hellickson, lined up to face the Red Sox on June 14-16, and for other matchups.

After Price takes his regular turn Monday in Anaheim, Cobb will pitch on six days' rest, and Shields will get a fifth day before starting Wednesday. After Thursday's off day, look for Hellickson, Price and RHP Wade Davis (also on six days' rest) to pitch in Baltimore, with Cobb starting the June 13 makeup in Detroit.

Then the Rays, for all the complicated maneuvering, will have Shields, Hellickson and Price set to face the Red Sox.

Manager Joe Maddon said they waited to see Sonnanstine pitch Friday before making the decision, so his rough outing should have made it easy given that Cobb looked sharp in his return to the majors last week.

"The Cobb start against Texas was a good one; we were looking for the same kind of results (Friday) night; it didn't happen," Maddon said.

Sonnanstine, who allowed seven runs in five innings while throwing 97 pitches, will go back to his long relief role. "In a couple days, we'll put him back in the pen and see how it all plays out," Maddon said. "For right now he'll be going back to the pen."

Cobb's hold on the rotation spot might last only two more turns as RHP Jeff Niemann, out since May 4 with a lower back strain, is lined up for a potential June 18 return.

MEDICAL MATTERS: INF Elliot Johnson continues to make good progress in his recovery from a left knee sprain, but Maddon said it now will be a day or two past his June 8 eligibility date to return.

1B Casey Kotchman returned after missing five games due to a right ankle sprain, and Maddon said his impact on the defense was obvious.

The report on Niemann's Friday rehab start was good, Maddon said. His fastball topped out at 91 mph — "A perfect number," Maddon said — and he was sharp with his cutter and curveball. Niemann will go to Triple-A Durham and start Wednesday and June 13.

MISCELLANY: RF Matt Joyce made a strong throw to nail Justin Smoak at the plate to end the fourth. … DH Johnny Damon extended his streak of reaching base to 30 games, one off his career best. … C Kelly Shoppach, and his .146 average, will start today.

Tampa Bay Rays' Evan Longoria exits with tightness in side, hopes to play today 06/04/11 [Last modified: Saturday, June 4, 2011 11:23pm]

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