ST. PETERSBURG — The grimaces arise when he tries to backhand a ground ball or when he is pressed to provide a date for his return to the Rays lineup.
3B Evan Longoria desperately wishes he could do both. For now, his left hamstring allows him to do neither.
Speaking at length about his injury for the first time in at least a couple of weeks, Longoria said Friday that he still doesn't know when he will return. All he will say for sure is, his season's not over.
"I've seen a lot of reports and a lot of people talking about how my year's done. I don't believe my year's done by any means," said Longoria, absent since April 30.
"But I wish I could give anybody a concrete time frame. There are a lot of things I can do, and it just feels like sometimes I'm so close, and sometimes I'm still so far away. So that being said, I've just got to continue to strengthen it."
Longoria, who had a setback during a mid-June minor-league rehab stint, said he swings the bat "pain-free" and even asked the training staff about the possibility of a DH role. But he can't yet make all the plays in the field.
"The main thing is just trying to go for a backhanded ground ball. But other than that, I swing the bat fine," he said.
"I've been jogging and getting up to pretty good speeds, and none of that really bothers me. But again, there's just a couple of things that bother me, and I really hate having to tell people that I don't know, but it's the truth. I really can't give anybody a date."
RED CARPET CRITICISM: Longoria and manager Joe Maddon both dismissed the flurry of jabs the sidelined third baseman received via mainstream and social media for getting his hamstring in shape enough to attend the ESPYs earlier this week in Los Angeles.
"That's stupid," said Longoria, joined at the ceremony by girlfriend Jaime Edmondson and RHP James Shields and his wife, Ryane. "It angers you at some point because it's like, 'I can walk around. I'm still allowed to have fun.' "
SHAFFER SIGNS: With only hours to spare before Friday's deadline, the Rays announced they had signed Clemson junior 3B Richie Shaffer, their top draft pick (25th overall).
Shaffer, 21, got $1,712,500, or just below the slot value of $1,725,000. He reports today to the club's short-season Class A affiliate in Hudson Valley, N.Y.
"I'm just real excited about being here right now; this is a dream come true," Shaffer said after observing batting practice. "I get antsy watching batting practice and not being able to swing."
MORE HEARTACHE: Friday's loss was RHP Jeremy Hellickson's sixth in a row over eight starts. That stretch of futility ties Andy Sonnanstine for the second-longest drought by a Rays starter since the beginning of the 2008 season.
Maddon, however, suggested a silver lining surfaced after the second inning, when Hellickson walked two batters and hit another to set up Pedro Ciriaco's two-run single up the middle. After that, "I really thought that might've been the best stuff he's had all year," Maddon said.
MISCELLANY: RHP Jeff Niemann, out since mid May with a broken right fibula, said he's throwing 90 feet and doing work on a stationary bike. "It's definitely getting better each day," said Niemann, who will sign autographs at 11 a.m. today at Pet Pal Animal Shelter in St. Petersburg. … Since June 7, OF Ben Zobrist (2-for-4 Friday) is hitting .353, but the rest of the team is batting .216. … Hall of Famer and former Ray Wade Boggs will sign autographs today at Tropicana Field's Ted Williams Museum for a $30 donation to the museum. Boggs will sign until the game starts. … The Rays now are .500 (7-7) on Friday the 13th.