ST. PETERSBURG — 3B Evan Longoria was encouraged his injured left hamstring felt much better Wednesday, and with some good MRI exam results, he's day to day with a possible return Friday against the Yankees.
Longoria, the majors' RBI leader, was out of the lineup Wednesday but went through some baseball activities (light jogging and throwing) in the afternoon and said he felt okay, just a little sore.
Executive VP Andrew Friedman said the Rays are "very optimistic" Longoria will avoid a disabled list stint and confident they'll have him back "relatively soon."
"We just may save him until New York, give him two full days and move him onto the regular turf, see how that works, but he's fine," manager Joe Maddon said. "He's absolutely fine. He was adamant about that, and we're just being very cautious right now."
Though serving as DH may have helped his sore arm, Longoria said the subsequent change in his pregame activities could have caused the freak injury, suffered when he was running to first on a groundout Tuesday. Longoria said he didn't do his typical 15-minute warmup with strength and conditioning coordinator Kevin Barr. Maddon said when Longoria returns, it will be at third base.
Longoria, the AL's leading vote-getter for the All-Star Game, is hitting .322 with 13 homers and 55 RBIs.
"I think with a couple of DH days, I got out of my routine that I've been doing the last few years, which messed me up a little bit," Longoria said. "So whenever I can do all of the things that I do to get ready for a game, that'll probably be when I'm ready to go. Hopefully, that's either tomorrow or the next day."
MEDICAL MATTERS: LHP Scott Kazmir threw another bullpen session and said everything went well, his right quads is healthy and he's getting more extension in his delivery. The plan is to continue bullpens, with two days off in between, for about a week then re-evaluate, with simulated games possible. Maddon said a minor-league rehab assignment is likely.
"I don't want to set a date" for returning, Kazmir said. "We're trying to go until everything feels perfect, everything feels right and hope we never look back after that."
Maddon said DH Pat Burrell was going to hit off a tee in the cage Wednesday and today and will stay in St. Petersburg this weekend as he moves up to batting practice before they set up a program for him, with a potential rehab assignment, next week.
Maddon said SS Jason Bartlett (left ankle sprain) is progressing but is still sore and isn't sure if he'll be available to come off the DL when eligible Wednesday.
DRAFT DEBATE: Preparing for the annual player draft is different for the Rays this year.
Because of last season's success, they won't pick until 30th when the draft gets under way Tuesday night. That means they don't know yet — and may not until then — the player they'll take. Instead, they are focusing on a group they expect to be available.
"It's a pretty good-sized set," scouting director R.J. Harrison said at Wednesday's predraft media session. "I could probably think of 15-20 players right now, and some of them will end up being selected before."
By Tuesday, they expect to have it narrowed, but it won't be until the Yankees pick ahead of them that they will know for sure.
"I think we're going to have a tough decision," Harrison said. "I think there's going to be some guys there in a pretty good group that we're going to like pretty well."
After the first round, the Rays don't pick again, due to various compensation picks, until 78th.
The Rays have picked in the top eight each year since 1999, four times first overall.
MISCELLANY: Friedman said LHP Jason Cromer will move to Triple A to temporarily fill in for RHP Mitch Talbot, on the DL with an arm injury. … OF Fernando Perez will read to kids at 10 a.m. Friday at Town N' Country Regional Library (7606 Paula Drive, Tampa) to kick off the "Reading with the Rays" program.
Times staff writer Marc Topkin contributed to this report.