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Tampa Bay Rays' Evan Longoria flying home, will miss two games

ST. PETERSBURG — The Rays are expecting to be without slugging 3B Evan Longoria for the next two games.

Longoria was headed to California this morning for what a team official described as a family matter.

Longoria leads the majors with five homers and has a .441 average and hits in each of the first eight games, a career-best streak.

Willy Aybar is likely to take his place at third base.

RE-PLATOONED: Ben Zobrist had earned at least a share of what was Gabe Gross' playing time in rightfield against right-handed pitchers. "Zobrist definitely deserves to be in there often, too," manager Joe Maddon said. "Even what you've seen him do already this year."

The decision will come down to who better matches up with the opposing starter.

RED-FACED: Rays veteran OF Gabe Kapler had an interesting and honest take on being struck out Monday by Yankees INF/OF-turned-reliever Nick Swisher.

"I've always been lost when a reporter asks me what my most embarrassing moment was because I never know what to say; now I have my most embarrassing moment," Kapler said. "So to me that's the silver lining, my positive spin on it."

Swisher rolled the ball into the Yankees dugout so he could keep it. Kapler, in his 15th pro season, said he had no issues with it.

Kapler said if the Rays needed a position player to pitch he'd "certainly volunteer," but Maddon has someone else in mind: Willy Aybar. "Willy would throw some strikes and I know he would be up for something like that," he said.

SORE-SHOULDERED: Backup C Shawn Riggans' shoulder tendinitis came up recently, Maddon said, and the Rays are expecting him to be out two to three weeks. "It was just a calm-it-down kind of a situation," Maddon said. "If you had to push him I think he probably could play, but it was a little bit hot and we didn't want to push him through it."

Michel Hernandez joined the Rays from Durham and will make his first start today. Hernandez, 30, got a surprising call from Bulls manager Charlie Montoyo as he drove to his Durham apartment after Monday's game. Then he made an emotional one to his wife, Marta, who lives in Tampa with their young son, Michael, who has Type 1 diabetes, to say they'd get to see him play. "She was crying she was so excited," he said.

WELL-EXECUTED: CF B.J. Upton's spectacular back-to-the field catch on Monday remained a popular topic of conversation, even if it didn't earn top play honors on SportsCenter: "I don't know — you'll have to call them and ask them," Upton joked.

Upton's grace was impressive, but Maddon was most pleased with the technical aspects. "I loved the peek at the wall," he said. "That's the part that really turned me on because he found out where he was, and that permitted him to make that catch."

IN TRIBUTE: Upton and Carl Crawford, the team's African-American players, said they'll be honored as all players wear No. 42 today in tribute to Jackie Robinson. "He's a pioneer for baseball," Upton said. "I wouldn't be here without him and I'm sure there's other guys around the league that would say the same thing. So anything we can do to honor him, we love to do it."

MISCELLANY: Tuesday's game was the Rays' 12th straight sellout, and the first time they've sold out the first two games of a season, but the streak likely will end today. … Yankees OF Xavier Nady felt sharp pain in his throwing elbow and is having an MRI exam today. … SS Jason Bartlett had five homers in '07 but knows he surprised people by going deep Sunday and Monday: "Everyone's asking me what I'm doing different. People are asking my wife, too, 'What are you feeding him?' " … The Rays were the 13th team since 1901 to score 15 or more in their home opener, though the second in four days; the Tigers did it Friday.

Tampa Bay Rays' Evan Longoria flying home, will miss two games 04/14/09 [Last modified: Wednesday, April 15, 2009 6:47am]

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