It's possible that Evan Longoria could return to active duty at Tropicana Field on Tuesday night, when the Rays open a three-game series against the Toronto Blue Jays. Rays manager Joe Maddon termed it a "50-50'' proposition, but was encouraged that Longoria felt good enough to play Sunday for Triple-A Durham, when an off-day was expected.
Longoria went 2-for-3 with a pair of line-drive singles in Durham's 6-4 loss against Gwinnett. Overall, Longoria has batted .200 (5-for-25, all as the designated hitter) in his eight-game rehabilitation assignment.
Given the Rays' recent lack of offense, only four runs in their last five home games, including Sunday's 1-0, 10-inning defeat against the Baltimore Orioles, Longoria's return might be viewed as potential salvation.
The Rays are 41-44 since Longoria suffered a partially torn left hamstring and was placed on the disabled list.
"You're not scoring runs and you want to get people back,'' Maddon said. "But you've got to make sure he's ready. We're relying on the people there watching him and Longo to say, 'I'm ready.' We might make the move, but I'm still going to be patient with that until we get all the right answers.
"Of course it would be (a psychological boost). But my expectations are not that he's just going to come in and start railing on the baseball. I don't believe that. I believe he's going to have to work his way through it. We've got to get him up to speed with major-league players playing in August.''
ZOBRIST SAYS HE'S FINE
Rays 2B Ben Zobrist, the clean-up batter, was removed from the game in the fourth inning after saying he had upper back spasms. Zobrist said he expects to be ready for Tuesday night.
Zobrist said he felt tightness and some difficulty breathing, although he's not certain when the discomfort began or what caused it. The departure caused a mini-stir on Twitter as someone claimed to have seen Zobrist exchanging hugs in the dugouts, almost as if he had been traded. That speculation quickly made the rounds and was accepted as fact by some who wondered what the Rays had received for Zobrist.
"That's hilarious,'' Zobrist said. "Who could I have hugged? I wouldn't be ashamed of it because we hug a lot here. But as I got in the dugout and went up the tunnel, all I was thinking about (was getting treatment).''
BARK IN THE PARK
It was a dog-day afternoon at the Trop as fans were permitted to bring their dogs into the upper left field Party Deck for "Bark at the Park.'' The Rays estimated that 450 dogs took in the game and their barks could be heard in the distance throughout the game. One of the attendees was Astro, the canine pet of Rays LHP David Price.
"Astro hasn't moved since he got home … he obviously enjoyed himself today!!'' Price tweeted afterward.
ODDS AND ENDS
Maddon said DH Luke Scott (oblique strain) had a successful batting-practice stint on Sunday morning. More batting practice work is on tap for Tuesday and Wednesday. …. RHP Jeff Niemann, on the disabled list since May 15 with a right fibula fracture, will make his first rehabilitation start on Wednesday for the Class A Charlotte Stone Crabs at home against Bradenton. He will not surpass 45 pitches. … Maddon on the three-game series with Baltimre: "If I was the Orioles, I'd be really upset giving up two runs in three games and only winning two. They've got to be leaving here very upset about that.'' … The Rays, 11-11 since the all-star break, have won only one of their past six series at home. … The Rays were shut out for the fifth time this season. It was the franchise's first back-to-back shutout losses since Sept. 7-8, 2008. … It was the 40th time the Rays were held to six hits or less, one game shy of the Seattle Mariners. … The Rays are batting .234 with runners in scoring position, tying Baltimore for the lowest average in the American League. … Rays RHP Fernando Rodney, who pitched a scoreless ninth inning, has not surrendered a run in his last 20 outings, dating to June 16. His current 21-inning scoreless streak is the longest active streak in the majors and ties for the franchise record by a reliever (Joe Borowski, 2005). The overall mark is 23 consecutive scoreless innings by RHP James Shields last season. … The Orioles have won their last 11 extra-inning games, extending a franchise record. … The all-time series between the Rays and Orioles is tied 126-126. … Tuesday night's series opener features Shields (9-7, 4.24 ERA) against Toronto's J.A. Happ (0-0, 5.14).