ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (AP) — Evan Longoria doesn’t see himself as the savior for Tampa Bay’s struggling offense.
The three-time All-Star rejoined the Rays lineup on Tuesday night after missing 85 games because of a partially torn left hamstring.
“I’m really happy to be back and hopefully I’m able to change the complexion of the lineup, maybe not go out and hit two home runs a night, but maybe allow some other guys to see some better pitches and allow them an opportunity to get going,” Longoria said. “Hopefully I can provide some kind of spark and get the offense going, but I try not to put all the weight on my shoulders.”
The Rays had announced on Monday’s off day that they planned to activate Longoria from the 60-day disabled list.
“When a guy like Longo comes back, people are going to heap all these unnecessary, unreachable expectations,” Tampa Bay manager Joe Maddon said. “Just go out and play your game, be yourself. If he’s able to do that, I’m very pleased. Part of it is just by being in the lineup, everybody else around him may get pitched at a little different, may see something better, and that’s a good thing.”
Longoria was the designated hitter Tuesday against the Toronto Blue Jays.
“The DH is the best-case scenario right now, allowing me to get back in the lineup and, hopefully, affect the game in some way there,” Longoria said.
Maddon doesn’t know how many consecutive games Longoria will play.
“I think tonight and tomorrow night, and we’ll evaluate for the day game,” Maddon said, looking ahead to Thursday. “I think that’s the natural way to look at it for right now. The point is to not break him, even if he goes 8-for-7 in the next two games.”
Longoria was hurt on April 30 against Seattle when he slid into second on a stolen base attempt.
“That’s going to be in the back of his mind but he’s going to have to do it,” Maddon said. “I don’t have a problem with that as much as I have a problem with trying to scoring from second on a bang-bang play or breaking up a double play. Things like that are things he doesn’t have to do right now.”
Tampa Bay started 15-8, then went 41-44 in his absence. Eight players saw time at third while Longoria was on the DL.
Copyright 2012 The Associated Press.