ST. PETERSBURG - APRIL 01: Infielder Evan Longoria #3 of the Tampa Bay Rays fouls off a pitch against the Baltimore Orioles during the Opening Day game at Tropicana Field on April 1, 2011 in St. Petersburg, Florida. (Photo by J. Meric/Getty Images)

Evan Longoria Returns To Rays Starting Lineup

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Evan Longoria Activated From DL By Rays

Star third baseman Evan Longoria got hurt very early in the season, and the Tampa Bay Rays started 1-8. Since then, though, they've gone 14-5. And Tuesday night, they get to welcome Longoria back to the starting lineup.

Longoria, who strained his left oblique in the season's second game April 2, said he should be "close to 100 percent" physically tonight and about 85 percent comfortable facing big-league pitching, needing just a couple of games to get re-acclimated.

During a four-game rehab stint, Longoria went 4-for-15 with three home runs. And considering what the Rays got in his absence, he won't have to do much to represent a substantial improvement. Sean Rodriguez and Felipe Lopez combined to go 18-for-95 with two home runs and 31 strikeouts as fill-ins at third.

To make room for Longoria on the roster, Lopez has been designated for assignment. Over 24 games, Lopez has posted a .610 OPS -- after posting a .656 OPS last season -- and drew Joe Maddon's ire at least twice for failing to hustle to first base.

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Evan Longoria To Return Next Tuesday

Good news for the Tampa Bay Rays about Evan Longoria's oblique injury. From Marc Topkin of the St. Petersburg Times:

Longoria says he'll go on rehab Friday to Montgomery, rejoin Rays on Tuesday at home.

The All-Star third baseman injured his side while chasing down a villainous rascal who had absconded with his cap taking batting practice swings on April 2, and he was removed from the game later that day. He had taken only five at-bats in 2011 before going on the DL.

In Longoria's place, the Rays have used noted non-hustler Felipe Lopez, who has batted .224/.250/.379 over 58 at-bats. The Rays have also used Dan Johnson for a couple of innings at third, and the first baseman has a perfect fielding percentage in his career at the position, fielding the one grounder that was hit to him.

A healthy Longoria would be a boon for the Rays, who overcame a dreadful 1-8 start to climb back to .500, where they sit now at 11-11.

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Evan Longoria Oblique Injury Lands Rays Star On DL

Stud Rays third baseman Evan Longoria was removed from Saturday's game in the sixth inning with what was being termed a sore left oblique. Initially, Longoria was optimistic that he'd only be out a few days, but after undergoing further evaluation on Sunday, it was determined that Longoria has an oblique strain that will knock him out for at least much of the rest of the month, and the slugger has been placed on the disabled list.

After Saturday's game, Longoria told reporters that he'd felt discomfort in batting practice and probably should have sat out altogether. For as long as he's out - and he should return in late April or early May - Sean Rodriguez will cover third base, and Felipe Lopez has been recalled from AAA to serve as depth off the bench.

Longoria had been hitless in five at bats this year before getting pulled. With no further complications, the Rays should survive his absence, but this isn't how any contender wants to begin their season.

For more on Longoria and the Rays, please check out DRays Bay.

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