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Tampa Bay Rays' Evan Longoria hopes to carry over lessons learned while leading off

ST. PETERSBURG — Evan Longoria's role as the Rays leadoff man may be short-lived, but he is hoping the lessons learned in the past two games will be lasting.

Longoria, who was stuck in a 6-for-45 slump with one RBI in 12 games before moving to the top of the order, has since gone 4-for-7 (.571) with a home run, double, three runs and three walks.

After reaching base seven times in the past two games against the Indians, Longoria told manager Joe Maddon it was exhausting being the catalyst.

"I told him, you've got to be in shape to lead off," Longoria said. "It's definitely a different role, something I've never experienced.

"I feel like I'm doing a good job of just seeing more pitches and getting into spots where I can actually swing the bat at a pitch I can handle. I felt like when I was in the third and fourth spot I was kind of pressing and swinging at pitches that I really can't do anything with, and now I'm getting a little deeper in counts and giving myself an opportunity to have success."

With the Rays facing Rangers LHP Derek Holland tonight, Longoria could be moved back to a more familiar spot in the middle of the order. Maddon was noncommittal after Sunday's 7-0 win over the Indians.

"I'm going to sleep on it," Maddon said.

Meanwhile, Longoria believes the experience will help him become a more patient hitter wherever he is in the lineup.

"That's really the biggest thing, that if and when I do go back to the third or fourth slot, I need to realize I'm going to get maybe one or two pitches an at-bat and other than that, guys are going to try and make pitches and get you out … understanding I can't hit every pitch and taking that mind-set back there," he said.

COBB LIKELY TO START TUESDAY: The Rays are expected to recall RHP Alex Cobb from Triple-A Durham to start Tuesday's game against the Rangers.

Cobb was scratched from his scheduled start for the Bulls on Sunday. The Rays will have to make a corresponding move to make room on the roster.

Apparently, the Rays plan a return to the bullpen for RHP Andy Sonnanstine, who became the fifth starter when Jeff Niemann went on the disabled list May 6 with a lower back strain. The Rays lost all three games Sonnanstine started in place of Niemann, who still is at least several weeks from rejoining the team.

Cobb, 23, made a spot start against the Angels May 1, working 41/3 innings and allowing four runs, four hits and four walks. The Rays believed Cobb was tipping his pitches.

There are several candidates in the bullpen to be sent down. Chief among them may be RHP Brandon Gomes (0-0, 2.89 ERA), who took over Sonnanstine's long relief role and has made nine appearances since being recalled from Durham May 3.

Meanwhile, Niemann will have a 45-pitch simulated game today and could rejoin the club after three or four rehab assignments.

KOTCHMAN INJURED: Rays 1B Casey Kotchman left the game after the fourth inning with a right ankle sprain he sustained sliding into second in an unsuccessful attempt to stretch a single. He is day to day.

Kotchman, the former Seminole High star, is not expected to start today and will be replaced at first by Felipe Lopez.

"I hate to lose him. It's not only about his offense, but his defense," Maddon said.

MISCELLANY: RF Matt Joyce went hitless for the only the second time in his past 13 games. … Rays pitchers have recorded 26 starts of seven innings or more this season, tied with the White Sox for the second most in the majors. … The Rays recorded two shutouts in a series for the third time in club history.

Tampa Bay Rays' Evan Longoria hopes to carry over lessons learned while leading off 05/29/11 [Last modified: Sunday, May 29, 2011 9:38pm]
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