Feeling strong, Longoria eschews day off

Feeling strong, Longoria eschews day off

Feeling strong, Longoria eschews day off
MINNEAPOLIS -- Evan Longoria was back in Tampa Bay's lineup for a fourth straight day on Friday.

He served as designated hitter and batted fourth for the Rays against the Twins, his fourth contest since missing 85 games with a partially torn left hamstring.

Manager Joe Maddon originally planned on giving Longoria the day off, but head trainer Ron Porterfield was adamant that he could play, Maddon said.

"I feel good," Longoria said. "No setbacks, no lingering stiffness or soreness. I haven't been asked to do a whole lot, as far as running and really stretching it out. I've been able to contribute in some ways and just do enough.

"So that's kind of what I hope to do right now, is just try to stay at that speed, that gear, and I don't think there's any way I can do any further damage in that gear. And hopefully it gives it a chance to get better, better enough for me to play the field soon."

Neither Longoria nor Maddon would put a firm timetable on when they expect him to return to third base. But Maddon said it likely wouldn't take place during the Rays' current 10-game road trip.

"I'm glad that he does feel better," Maddon said. "But for me personally, I'm not anticipating him playing third base on this road trip. If it were to happen, it'd be a great surprise."

Tampa Bay entered Friday having won three straight games since Longoria's return. He went 3-for-5 with 2 RBIs in Thursday's 7-1 win over Toronto, and went 4-for-12 in the series against the Blue Jays.

But the value of Longoria's return to the clubhouse may be equally as important as his statistical production. The Rays are 18-8 this season with Longoria in the lineup.

"He's our guy," pitcher David Price said. "He's the face of our organization. It definitely helps out. It's a different feeling when he's in that lineup.

"He makes people feel good. I don't know what it is. He keeps rallies going, he starts them, he drives in guys. It just bolsters the confidence of everybody else that's watching him."