Originally posted on Fox Sports Florida  |  Last updated 8/7/12
ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. It was a familiar sight Tuesday afternoon at Tropicana Field: a crush of reporters, radio mics and TV cameras zeroing in on the man of the moment, Tampa Bay Rays third baseman Evan Longoria. The scene has been all too scarce this season for the Rays. But after missing 85 games with a left hamstring tear, Longoria was finally moved off the disabled list and penciled back into the lineup Tuesday. That was welcome news for a Rays team that went 15-8 with him yet has subsequently sputtered to a 41-44 record in his absence. Longoria, coming off an eight-game rehab stint in Triple-A Durham, was immediately inserted into the cleanup spot as DH, a role hes set to play for the time being to prevent any further injury to his hamstring. Its good to be back, I tell you what, Longoria said. Im excited. In a corresponding move, the Rays made room on the active roster by optioning infielder Will Rhymes back to Durham and designated switch-hitting utility man Brooks Conrad for assignment. That cleared the way for the return of the player who has so often been the catalyst of Tampa Bays offense. And for a team struggling so much at the plate this season currently hitting a paltry .230 Longorias bat could make a tangible difference for the 56-52 Rays as they battle for a Wild Card spot. In his recent Durham stint, he served strictly as DH, going 5 for 25 with three RBI, seven walks and a .382 on-base percentage. Prior to his injury, sustained on a slide into second base on April 30, Longoria was hitting .329 (27 for 82) with four homers and 19 RBI. He felt increasingly good playing for the Bulls. And after his game Sunday afternoon, he sent a text to Maddon, Rays executive vice president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman and trainer Ron Porterfield saying he thought he was ready to return. Ive played the last four days in Durham, he said. The good thing is it was getting better. I wasnt feeling any residual soreness or anything like that. Maddon is delighted to have his three-time All-Star back, but he expressed a caution. When a guy like Longo comes back, people are really going to read into it and heap all these unnecessary, unreachable expectations, he said. So just come out and play your game. Be yourself, one day at a time. And if hes able to do that, Ill be very pleased. Part of it is by being in the lineup, everybody else gets pitched a little bit differently. They might see something better, and thats a good thing. Longoria said that he expects to have no trouble running the base paths, such as sprinting from first to third or trying to score from second on a hit. And he doesnt believe theres any set limit to how many games he can play consecutively. Its kind of communication process between myself and Joe and the trainers, he explained. I dont want put a number on it, but I dont see it being it being a one-, two- or three-day thing and having to take one off. Hopefully, more than three and go from there. Well kind of take it one day at a time. At the plate, Longoria indicated that he hasnt had any pain or soreness and that hes been making steady progress in the field with no setbacks. Theres a little bit of hesitation as far as explosive running still, he said. But I tested it as much as I could test it down there (in Durham) prior to the games. During the game, I just let off the gas a little bit and got my at-bats and did what I needed to do to get through the games, and felt great doing that. The majority of heavy lifting was done before the games and there was no setback from that. I felt good, and I feel really good going forward.
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