Rays execs eventually may decide they need to make another move to replace injured third baseman Evan Longoria.
Maybe they acquire a third baseman (or a shortstop, with Sean Rodriguez sliding to third) versatile enough to help out elsewhere when Longoria returns (like a Ty Wigginton). Or they accelerate the time line for OF/DH Hideki Matsui to add a bigger bat to the mix, knowing Luke Scott soon will be able to play first and the outfield. (Or they can wait for Matsui and have him replace Brandon Allen.)
But they may just stick with the group they have, piecing a lineup together nightly from the somewhat miscast corps of Elliot Johnson, Jeff Keppinger, Will Rhymes and Rodriguez (with Reid Brignac available in Triple A) based on matchups and other data, knowing they've made it work before.
Since Longoria joined the Rays 10 games into the 2008 season, he had missed 13 percent of their games through Friday (87 of 665), and they had won 63 percent of the time (55 games).
Part of it is having quality, albeit not always obvious, depth. Initial thoughts of relying on the likes of Willy Aybar, Felipe Lopez, Dan Johnson and Rodriguez (at the time) to replace Longoria weren't necessarily comforting. Using them properly is key, too.
Other elements are less tangible. Knowing players follow his lead, manager Joe Maddon makes a point to not dwell on — and definitely not stress over — Longoria's absence. "Things like that can bother you only if you allow it to bother you," he said.
Also, there's the positive atmosphere he creates for the replacements and the patience he shows if they mess up. "The people we put out there feel a lot of support from us," he said, "and they really believe we believe that they can get the job done."