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Tampa Bay Rays' Evan Longoria to join Team USA in World Baseball Classic

PORT CHARLOTTE — Rays 3B Evan Longoria got the call he was hoping for and will join Team USA for the final rounds of the World Baseball Classic this weekend.

Longoria will leave today for Los Angeles, where Team USA plays a semifinal Sunday against Japan or South Korea and, with a win, the final Monday.

"Albeit brief, this should be a great opportunity for Longo," Rays executive vice president Andrew Friedman said in a statement. "He's played a lot this spring, so he's definitely ready to compete in that type of environment.''

Longoria, 23, replaces Chipper Jones on the injury-depleted roster. USA Baseball executive director/CEO Paul Seiler said they were "so very fortunate to add a player as talented as Evan Longoria. With the opportunity to make a roster change, Evan is too valuable not to have on our club."

David Wright has been playing third, but he was hobbled Wednesday when he fouled a ball off his left foot and cracked the nail on his big toe.

Longoria missed the Rays' exhibition game Wednesday due to the gastrointestinal bug that had been going through the clubhouse, but he returned Thursday and said he should be 100 percent in a few days.

"We're far along in our camp, and I'm in good enough shape now that if they asked me to go (today) at some point, I'd probably still be ready,'' he said Thursday morning.

LONG DAY: LHP Scott Kazmir, his right pant leg smeared with dirt, was glad once Thursday's rough outing was over.

Kazmir labored through four innings against the Cardinals, weakened apparently by the same sickness bug. He gave up five runs on eight hits (two home runs) but was glad he got some work in under the circumstances.

"It just felt like every single pitch I threw, I had to take a step back and catch my breath," Kazmir said. "It feels like your whole body is just Jell-O, so it wasn't even me striding out there. It was picking my leg up and just collapsing."

Kazmir said he didn't throw as many sliders because of the fatigue, but he didn't feel bad enough to skip the start and "fall way behind," saying, "I'm not worried about the numbers in spring training."

Kazmir did fall in the fourth, when he was late covering first base on a ground ball, arriving the same time as the Cardinals' Tyler Greene.

Despite the fall — and the hits — manager Joe Maddon wasn't concerned with Kazmir, saying he "threw some good pitches, (his) velocity was fine," but the illness had "some impact on his durability."

ON TRACK: It appears more and more likely RHP Troy Percival could be the Rays closer on opening day. Maddon said that Percival, 39 and coming off offseason back surgery, has looked sharp in three spring outings (all 1-2-3 innings).

"As of right now he's showing that he can or could be," Maddon said. "He really has been sharp. … Right now he is, for me, ahead of where I thought he'd be at this particular juncture."

GAME DETAILS: Maddon said that RHP Jason Isringhausen used all his pitches well in a scoreless fifth inning. "He's really showing his arm strength," Maddon said. … DH Pat Burrell hit a home run for the Rays (10-8-1) and Ben Zobrist went 3-for-4 in the 9-7 loss.

MORLAN BACK: RHP Eduardo Morlan cleared waivers and the Rays took him back from the Brewers, who had taken him in the Rule 5 draft, for $25,000. Morlan, 22, will report to minor-league camp. "We're excited to get Eddie back — we feel like he has the ability to be an above-average major-league reliever," Friedman said.

MISCELLANY: Sunday's game against the Yankees is sold out, with possible boardwalk standing-room tickets available the day of the game. … Saturday's MLB Alumni Legends of Baseball Game was canceled; the youth clinic will still be held. For refunds call (941) 206-3511.

Tampa Bay Rays' Evan Longoria to join Team USA in World Baseball Classic 03/19/09 [Last modified: Friday, March 20, 2009 6:41am]
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