News: Longoria feeling good after successful return

ST. PETERSBURG — The Rays’ lineup got a much-needed boost on Tuesday.

Evan Longoria, out since April 30 with a partially torn left hamstring, returned from the 60-day disabled list and went 1-for-3 with a sacrifice fly in the Rays’ 4-1 over Toronto in the series opener at Tropicana Field.

“It’s weird to go into a game trying to make it out healthy,” Longoria said. “Sometimes it’s the little things that are important, and today was a huge stepping stone. … There was nothing about today that was negative. We get a win which is most important, I get an opportunity with the bases loaded and have a good at-bat, and come out with a good result there.”

Batting fourth as the designated hitter, Longoria said he felt no pain after the game and wants to have as many at-bats as he can in the near future, though manager Joe Maddon said he doesn’t want to overwork his All-Star.

“What was the deciding factor as to when I was gonna be back up here was stacking up those four games in a row in [Triple-A] Durham, and feeling good after each one of them,” Longoria said. “I feel just the same after this one. A little more mentally drained, but my legs feel good.”

Longoria wrapped up an eight-game rehab assignment with Durham on Sunday in which he struggled at the plate — going 5-for-25 with seven walks and eight strikeouts. In his last rehab appearance, Longoria mustered a pair of hits for the Bulls.

In his first at bat on Tuesday, Longoria hit a sharp grounder right up the middle, but Toronto starter J.A. Happ flashed his glove and was able to force the groundout.

Longoria returned an inning later with the bases loaded and none out and drove a Happ offering deep to right-center field that fell into the glove of Moises Sierra. Longoria said he knew it wouldn’t reach the seats, but it was deep enough to score Desmond Jennings from third, while also allowing B.J. Upton to tag from second.

“I hit it good, don’t get me wrong, I was praying it would go out,” Longoria said. “It kinda came off my bat low but in that situation, that’s exactly what I’m trying to do right there. … I’m not complaining about it.”

After striking out on a curveball in the bottom of the fifth, Longoria returned for his last at-bat of the night in the eighth, when he knocked a single.

At no point in the game did Longoria need to slide, which originally caused his hamstring injury. Maddon said before the game that Longoria was advised to not overexert himself, such as breaking up a double play or running too hard to first base.

Maddon said after the game that Longoria will be good to play on Wednesday.

Longoria won’t play third base any time in the near future, but he did say before the game his return to the field is “right around the corner,” though there is no timetable.

To make room on the active roster for Longoria, Tampa Bay optioned Will Rhymes to Triple-A Durham, while Brooks Conrad was designated for assignment to clear a space on the 40-man roster.

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