Through last night’s game, Evan Longoria had been the only member of the Rays to appear in every game this year. Despite dealing with plantar fasciitis over the past few weeks, the Rays had been able to manage the injury by putting Longoria at designated hitter, limiting the time he spent on the foot.
Unfortunately, disaster struck last night, as Longoria aggravated the injury running out a ground ball up the middle. He was sent home in a boot last night, and is out at least through the weekend. He is expected to be reevaluated on Saturday, when the Rays will hopefully have a timetable for his return.
Last season, the loss of Longoria was devastating, and was essentially the death knell to their playoff aspirations. Going 43-45 with Longoria out of the lineup, the Rays just did not have the offensive capabilities to overcome the loss of their best hitter. As they dealt with other injuries and a lack of production, there just was not the depth to withstand such a major loss.
This season, while having Longoria out for any length of time will certainly hurt, the Rays may be better equipped to overcome this injury. Tampa has been getting excellent production out of James Loney and Kelly Johnson, who may take over for Longoria at third at least in the short term. Matt Joyce has rediscovered his power stroke this season, and is three home runs away from his total of 2012. Wil Myers has displayed an ability to make adjustments at the plate, and, thus far, has been able to exhibit the power that made him such a highly regarded prospect. The Rays are even getting production out of the catching platoon of Jose Lobaton and Jose Molina, as that position has no longer been an offensive black hole.
Unlike last year, when Longoria, Ben Zobrist and Jeff Keppinger were the only regulars to hit over .250 for the Rays, they may be in a better position to keep themselves afloat in a very competitive American League East. The Rays lineup has been solid for most of the year, and it seems as though it has been a lack of production from their pitching staff that has kept them from being one of the better teams in the league. Yet, there is hope there, as David Price is due back on Tuesday, and Jeremy Hellickson has pitched well over his last two starts.
While losing Evan Longoria for any stretch of time would certainly hurt, it may not be the disaster that it was last season. If the pitching staff is truly on the right track, and the offense can continue to produce as it has thus far, the Rays may still find themselves in contention even if this injury is worse than presently believed.