Thursday, June 4, 2009

Longoria ready by weekend

Evan Longoria participated in a series of running drills early Thursday afternoon including one where he leaned backwards on Rays head athletic trainer Ron Porterfield and back peddled across the outfield turf at Tropicana Field.

Afterwards, Longoria ducked into the office of Rays manager Joe Maddon and said he would be available to pinch-hit against the Royals later that day.

The third baseman, who leads the American League in total All-Star votes, said he hopes to return to the lineup when the Rays open a four-game series Friday night at Yankee Stadium.

"I felt pretty good. I feel a lot more confident than I did (Wednesday)," Longoria said. "I feel a whole lot better waking up this morning. I think it’s very possible to start (Friday), definitely (Saturday)."

Longoria injured his left hamstring Tuesday while running out a ground ball during the sixth inning of the Rays win against the Royals and immediately left the game. An MRI on Wednesday morning did not reveal any damage to the hamstring, and Longoria was listed as "day-to-day."

He was held out of the lineup Wednesday night and again Thursday in the finale of the Rays six-game homestand.

Maddon said Wednesday he planned on starting Longoria at third base Friday at Yankee Stadium but wouldn’t commit to that Thursday.

"I’m still not sure," Maddon said. "I do know he’s feeling better. He took a bunch of swings (in the batting cage) and feels he can hit."

Longoria was injured while serving as the designated hitter — a role he was playing to give his sore right shoulder a rest. Longoria made it clear Thursday he has no desire to rejoin the lineup as the designated hitter. When he comes back it will be at third base, something that might add a day to the original plan.

"When I’m ready to play, I want to be as close to 100 percent as I can be, both physically and mentally, confidence-wise," Longoria said. "I think if I try to rush back and feel any type of discomfort or don’t have full confidence in it, it’s gonna be a hindrance to me. But I’m pretty close."

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