ST. PETERSBURG, FLA. (AP) - Evan Longoria took a right turn out of the Tampa Bay clubhouse and walked a few feet before stepping in front of a group of reporters huddled around a lineup board that will not list his name for the next four to eight weeks.
The three-time All-Star was placed on the 15-day disabled list with a partially torn left hamstring Tuesday. Replacing his bat and glove won’t be easy.
Yet the Rays are confident they’ll be OK without their best player, who’s hitting .329 with four homers and 19 RBIs.
“I’ve been in similar situations before and it’s just one of those things where I’ll stay positive,” the third baseman said. “It’s going to be tough to watch, but I can’t really worry about it right now. I’ve just got to worry about getting healthy.”
The Rays received the test results before Tuesday night’s game against the Seattle Mariners. Longoria was injured Monday while running to second base on an attempted steal. He slid into the bag and remained on the ground for a moment before climbing to his feet and walking to the dugout without assistance.
Elliot Johnson replaced him following the third inning and eventually delivered a game-winning RBI single in the 12th inning of a 3-2 victory.
The Rays have a knack for finding someone to step up when star players are struggling or hurt. That’s one of the reasons they are confident they can withstand Longoria’s absence.
“We’re still a really good team. We’re going to have to be that much better defensively, that much better with our execution on the basepaths,” executive vice president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman said.
“Our pitching’s going to be very good. We’re going to score runs,” he added. “So it’s one of those things where it’s definitely not ideal, but we do have a ton of talent around him that should still allow us to win a lot of games.”
The Rays have made the playoffs three of the past four seasons, including 2008 when they won the AL East and made an improbable run to the World Series. That year, nearly every starter spent time on the disabled list, including Longoria.
Tampa Bay lost the slugger for 26 games early last year and recovered from a slow start to rally from a nine-game deficit in September to win the AL wild card on Longoria’s game-ending homer on the final night of the regular season.
“I don’t have any doubts,” that teammates will step up and help the Rays continue a strong start, Longoria said.
“We’ve been down this road before,” manager Joe Maddon said. “There’s no crying in baseball. … You just try to make the best decisions afterward and move forward. But you can’t worry about it. You don’t talk about it negatively because that can bring you down.”
The Rays purchased the contract of infielder Will Rhymes from Triple-A Durham. To make room on the 40-man roster for Rhymes, reliever Kyle Farnsworth was transferred from the 15-day disabled list to the 60-day DL.
Johnson was in the lineup again Tuesday night. Another utility infielder, Jeff Keppinger, may also get some starts at third while Longoria is out.
“It’s not clear yet how much time he’ll miss. It will be a minimum of four weeks. Somewhere in the four to eight (range), depending on how he responds and how treatment goes,” Friedman said.
“He’s always been a pretty good healer. He’s had some hamstring issues in the past and has come back from them pretty quickly, relatively speaking, so we’re not going to put a firm timeline on it.”
Longoria was sidelined by a strained left oblique muscle most of the opening month a year ago. He had a strong second half, finishing with 31 homers and 99 RBIs.
He helped the Rays to a 15-8 record in April _ the second-best opening month in franchise history _ and thought he had left his problems with injuries behind him.
“It’s just one of those things. Driving home last night, I was thinking I can look in the mirror and say I’ve done everything that I can do to try to prevent these kind of things,” Longoria said. “My hamstring just doesn’t cooperate with me sometimes.”
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