Evan Longoria on Re-hab Assignment
The Rays have played most of 2011 without their best hitter, Gold Glove 3rd baseman Evan Longoria, who left in the second game of the season with a strained oblique, will bat leadoff for the Rays AA team the Montgomery Biscuits. The idea is to maximize his reps and see how he feels. If he shows no signs of regression, Longo could be back with the team as early as next Tuesday and just in time for a three game series against AL East division rival Toronto.
After an 0-6 start the Rays have been firing on all cylinders, thanks to the surprising Sam Fuld and the bat of Johnny Damon. The team is still hitting only .228 but the mantra preached by manager Joe Maddon, solid pitching, defense and timely hitting, has the Rays over the .500 mark for the first time in the season and two games behind division leading New York Yankees.
The Rays play a day-night double-header against the Twins today and then jet home to face AL West nemesis Los Angeles Angels.
The Rays look a lot like the Angels, which is no surprise considering Joe Maddon spent his early career in the Angels system, as a minor league manager and scout, and later as the bench coach, under the tutelage of Angels manager Mike Scioscia. Maddon had a couple of brief stints as the Angels skipper during his career, but it was his work with Scioscia that defined and developed him. He was considered the front runner for the Red Sox in 2004, a job that eventually went to current manager Terry Francona. Maddon was hired by the Rays in 2005, bringing his small-ball, National League style game to Tampa. To say that Rays fans have been blessed by his presence would be a significant understatement.