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Tampa Bay Rays' Evan Longoria hoping to help Team USA at World Baseball Classic

PORT CHARLOTTE — Rays third baseman Evan Longoria headed to Los Angeles on Friday to join Team USA for a whirlwind weekend at the World Baseball Classic, determined to make the most of the opportunity.

"I'm excited," Longoria said. "Just get over there and try to win the thing, that's the goal. I don't want to go over there and hang out, I want to go over there and win."

Longoria, a replacement for injured Chipper Jones, figures to be on the bench for Sunday's semifinal against Japan (and Rays teammate Akinori Iwamura) at Dodger Stadium but said he could start Monday's final if Team USA advances. David Wright has been playing third but was hobbling Wednesday after fouling a ball off his left foot that cracked the nail on his big toe.

"I'm assuming (Wright) will be good to go, but if he's not, I'll be ready," Longoria said. "Whatever they want. There's a couple different scenarios."

But U.S. manager Davey Johnson said Friday that Longoria was "an insurance policy" and "I'm not expecting to use him.''

Longoria, 23, had been hoping for the invitation, having played for the U.S. team in the 2007 World Cup. "It's awesome," he said. "Anytime you get to put on the USA colors and play for your country it's an honor."

Longoria is also excited because his family will be able to see him play; they live about 25 minutes from Dodger Stadium.

Tampa Bay Rays' Evan Longoria hoping to help Team USA at World Baseball Classic 03/20/09 [Last modified: Saturday, March 21, 2009 6:21am]
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