ST. PETERSBURG — Neither the Rays nor 3B Evan Longoria feel that the "twinge" in his previously injured left hamstring that forced him to leave Wednesday's game is anything serious, with Longoria saying he hopes to be back in the lineup today.
Longoria said he came out after the seventh inning as a precaution. Manager Joe Maddon said they'll wait to see how he responds today before deciding if he'll play; if he doesn't, "it won't be a prolonged situation."
Longoria missed six starts this month due to tightness in the left hamstring. He said he felt the twinge trying to leg out a double in the sixth, and seemed encouraged with how he felt afterward. He said he doesn't think he'll need an MRI exam.
"I felt an opportunity to kind of conserve it," Longoria said. "I didn't feel the same shooting, sharp pain that I did the last time, and that's a good thing."
Longoria is hitting .264 (12-for-53) in 15 games since returning.
"It hasn't really felt exactly 100 percent since I've been back, and so I come to expect it," Longoria said. "It's just been sore, something I've been playing through. Like I said in that situation, it's an opportunity to get out and get some ice on it and be good for (today)."
Longoria said the hamstring is only sore to the touch, that he can do all his normal stuff. It's just when he really tries to accelerate he feels it a little bit. "It hasn't acted up in the past three weeks, and that's really the first time I felt something different."
KAZMIR COMING, SOMEONE GOING: LHP Scott Kazmir is set to return to the rotation and start Saturday or Sunday.
What the Rays say they haven't decided yet is who will be dropped to make room.
Those talks will continue at least into today, and maybe after tonight's game, which will be started by RHP Andy Sonnanstine, who is one of the candidates.
"We've had some discussions, we're trying to narrow it down and figure out the best way to do this," Maddon said. "It's tough.''
Having ruled out a six-man rotation, the Rays appear to have four options:
• Send down Sonnanstine (5-7, with a 6.60 ERA that is highest of all regular major-league starters and an AL-high .307 average).
• Send down rookie LHP David Price, who is 1-2, 4.45 but struggled Tuesday and might benefit from more development time.
• Move RHP Jeff Niemann, who is 6-4, 4.23 and out of options so he can't be sent down without being exposed to waivers, to the bullpen.
• Move Sonnanstine to the pen.
Niemann is scheduled to start Saturday and Price on Sunday.
The idea of shifting Niemann or Sonnanstine to the bullpen is complicated by the expected return of reliever Chad Bradford as soon as Monday, meaning they'd have to clear two spots.
RHP Winston Abreu, who is out of options, seems easily expendable, but it gets trickier finding another opening.
SPECIAL-AGAIN K: Kazmir looked good and felt good after a Wednesday bullpen session, especially pleased with his changeup. "Everything felt great, threw all my pitches, I wasn't as sore as I was last outing," he said. "So I feel good, I'm ready to go."
AKI ELATION: 2B Akinori Iwamura, speaking for the first time since Monday's better-than-expected knee surgery meant he could return six to eight weeks, said he "still can't believe what happened to me."
After coming to after surgery and learning that Dr. Koco Eaton discovered the ACL in his left knee had only a partial tear, Iwamura texted teammate Jason Bartlett saying, "A miracle happened."
"It's hard to imagine right now that it turned out to be a lot better than expected," Iwamura said through interpreter Bori Uchibori. "I'm pain-free right now."
MEDICAL MATTERS: Bradford pitched the second of back-to-back outings Wednesday night for Triple-A Durham, throwing a scoreless inning and picking up the win. He's scheduled for one more rehab outing Saturday.