ST. PETERSBURG — The injury that has sidelined Rays third baseman Evan Longoria, an oblique strain, is common in baseball and can feel like a pain in your side.
But to those who have suffered, and treated, the injury, it's also a big pain in the rear.
"Some of them can be nasty," Rays head athletic trainer Ron Porterfield said. "We hate them."
The recovery process can be slow and frustrating because the oblique muscles, located on the side and front of the abdomen, are involved in many baseball-related activities. Obliques are responsible for flexing and rotating the trunk, helping transfer the power generated by the hips to the arms to produce a swing.
Longoria was placed on the 15-day disabled list Sunday with a left oblique strain, with the team expecting the All-Star to be out at least three weeks. Longoria, who pulled himself out of Saturday's game, said an MRI exam revealed a "moderate" strain, and he hopes three weeks is the maximum.
"I felt pretty good going home, so I didn't expect it to be as much swelling in there as it was," Longoria said. "But modern medicine showed different."
Longoria, 25, likely will stay away from baseball activities for a few days as rehab usually starts with plenty of rest and a test of patience. At least three other Rays have had oblique strains, and all said it was difficult to deal with.
"It's really, really tough for anybody," veteran reliever Juan Cruz said. "Everything that you do, even if you cough, it hurts. It's a pain in the you-know-what."
Longoria said his injury came from hitting in the batting cage, an accumulation of swings, which is common. Porterfield said the types of strains he worries about more are the "one-event" injuries, when a player feels significant pain after one swing or pitch. That's what happened to leftfielder Johnny Damon on Sept. 14, 1999, when he swung and heard a snap that "sounded like a gun." The injury snapped his games-played streak at 305, and he returned Oct. 2 as a pinch-runner.
"When it's on your front side, it's something bad," Damon said. "It ended my season. All I could do was pinch-run. But it was months into the offseason until I felt better. … A lot of guys who have it, it is tough. You don't see too many people coming back (quickly). Hopefully, (Longoria) caught it in time."
Ben Zobrist missed about six weeks with a right oblique strain in 2007, but he doesn't feel Longoria's is as serious. "I felt like somebody shot me when I swung the bat," Zobrist said. "I think his is more mild."
Porterfield said oblique strains are treated similarly to other muscle strains, like hamstrings. They apply hot and cold, use anti-inflammatory medication, but "most of all it's time."
"It's not a miracle thing," Porterfield said. "You try to create a good environment to heal the best you can and hope it cuts off some days, but you're not going to cut off some weeks."
After time away from baseball activities, a player will start with rotations in the pool and progress slowly before hitting off a tee then moving into regular hitting.
Said Cruz: "You just wait."
Joe Smith can be reached at [email protected]mes.com.