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Evan Longoria’s injury a crushing blow to Rays

May 1, 2012, 6:12 PM EDT

Rays' Longoria holds his left knee and grimaces after he was tagged out byMariners shortstop Ryan trying to steal second base, during the third inning of their MLB American League baseball game in St. Petersburg Reuters

Evan Longoria might be the American League’s most indispensable player. We’re certainly about to find out now that he’s due to miss 6-8 weeks with a hamstring tear.

Longoria, the owner of a .329/.433/.561 line and 19 RBI in 23 games to start the season, was injured on a steal attempt during Monday’s game against the Mariners.

It might be a bit of an overstatement to call Longoria’s the league’s most indispensable player, considering that he’s never even finished in the top five in the MVP balloting. Longoria, though, was off to an MVP-caliber start this year, and the fact is that he’s on a team with a $65 million payroll, not the Yankees or Rangers. The Rays couldn’t afford to pay for depth over the winter.

Replacing Longoria at third base during last night’s game was Elliot Johnson, a lifetime .189/.258/.308 hitter. The Rays could also go with Jeff Keppinger there, but while he has a better stick than the alternatives, he’s still an awfully weak option as a third baseman against right-handers.

One option would be to call up Reid Brignac to play shortstop and move Sean Rodriguez to third base, giving the team it’s best defensive alignment. However, it looks like Brignac will stay in Triple-A for now, with former Tigers second baseman Will Rhymes coming up to replace Longoria. Rhymes would serve as an occasional second baseman when Ben Zobrist plays the outfield.

Another possibility: acquiring the right-handed-hitting Jose Lopez to help out at third base. Lopez was just designated for assignment by Cleveland after hitting .190 in five games during April. He hasn’t been any good these last two years, but he did impress this March and he has more upside than the alternatives.

The Rays will struggle to hit for power with Longoria out, which could lead to a Hideki Matsui promotion in a few weeks. In the meantime, Luke Scott and Matt Joyce will need to perform. Switch-hitter Ben Zobrist could hit third in between the lefties Pena and Scott.

For what it’s worth, the Rays went 19-12 with Longoria out of the lineup last year, so they did more than tread water without him. Still, he was the team’s driving force during its late push to overtake the Red Sox, hitting 17 homers and driving in 46 runs over the final two months. Life will get more difficult without him.

  1. doctorfootball - May 1, 2012 at 6:31 PM

    That’s a big loss. But if you’re going to lose someone for 1-2 months, this is the time of year for it to happen. ESPN said 4-8 weeks. Not a Rays fan, but I hope he’s only out for a month. He’s a fun player to watch.

  2. garylanglais - May 1, 2012 at 6:38 PM

    I’m sure the Rays wish Brandon Inge was released about a week later then he was

    • vanmorrissey - May 1, 2012 at 7:11 PM

      True that.

    • nflfollower - May 1, 2012 at 9:52 PM

      Joe madden seems like a pretty smart guy…..I’m not so sure he would go for Inge.

  3. spudchukar - May 1, 2012 at 7:34 PM

    Yankee prayers are answered. This is better news for the Pinstripe brigade than the re-incarnation of Whitey Ford and Ron Guidry. Unless the Yanks could make a significant move before June, to add not one but two legitimate starters the Rays were on their way to leaving the rest of the division in the dust. This is the only player they could not afford to lose.

    I am constantly amazed by announcers and color commentors lack knowledge about injuries. Watching the game last night (the Cards had the night off), and so I tuned into Tampa Bay’s broadcast. Longoria tried to steal and about 3 strides from second he pulled up lame. He continued his slide, but anyone who has watched sports, should have recognized the hamstring pull, but no not the Rays broadcasters. I bet my friend, later in the evening that tomorrow I would read about a DL stint for Longoria. It was so obvious.

    One last note. I have been critical of Jesus Montero’s defensive abilities for the past couple of years, but most of my info came from reading scouting reports. Until last night I had no idea about his deficiencies. He is dreadful. First off, no one can catch with your legs spread fully apart. You cannot shift, and even if you happen to block the ball you are floundering in the dirt, and cannot retrieve the ball. But that is not all. It prohibits you from moving for balls that are wide or inside. I was stunned by his technique. Three or four times, and he replaced Olivio late in the game, he lunged for pitches that most MLB catchers handle with ease. Seattle better look elsewhere for a backstop. I didn’t see him throw but all reports are that this is his chief liabilty. To be fair, he seemed to toss the ball back to the pitcher well, which now that I think about it, is surprising.

    • flpunx - May 1, 2012 at 10:28 PM

      You must have been watching a different feed than we get in St. Pete, because right away Orestes said is looked like it was a hamstring issue by the way he grabbed behind his knee.

    • bobdira - May 1, 2012 at 10:59 PM

      You’re an interesting read. Not good at all, but interesting. A Yankee fan maybe? That would explain a lot. Including the number of negative reviews of what you wrote. Dick!

    • spudchukar - May 1, 2012 at 11:22 PM

      flpunx, I shouldn’t have said “tuned into the Mariner broadcast”, was watching on Root Northwest. That said there was still an earlier sign that Longoria had pulled his hamstring, when mid-stride he pulled up, sure-fire indication of a hamstring pull.

      As to bobdira, are you always so elegant. Yankee fan, not really, more of a Mariner and Rays fan, but not a Yankee hater either. So from what I gather any criticism, whether direct or indirect makes you uncomfortable, and results in childlike retorts. Typical.

    • channingtaintum - May 2, 2012 at 12:44 AM

      spudchukar, I stopped reading after “Yankee”

  4. mikeincmn - May 1, 2012 at 7:43 PM

    Honestly, I think Kemp is more important to his team. Don’t get me wrong , Longoria is an awesome player and this is a massive loss, but the Rays still sport an awesome starting staff, a solid bullpen, solid defense and still have a few sticks in there line up. The Dodgers basically have Kemp, Either, Kershaw and a bunch of scrubs like Uribe, Gywnn and Loney.

    Also, I understand what you guys are saying, but could any team seriously come close to replacing a guy like Longo? The drop off from an MVP caliber player like him to his replacement is almost always going to be pretty massive.

    • cosanostra71 - May 1, 2012 at 10:22 PM

      I don’t know if Kemp is or isn’t more important to his team, but I do know he doesn’t play in the American League.

    • wendell7 - May 2, 2012 at 8:28 AM

      I’m not saying he is the same caliber player as Longoria, but Matt Joyce didn’t look too bad at all last night filling in for him in the 3rd spot in their lineup.

  5. neelyisgod - May 1, 2012 at 7:43 PM

    Crushing blow to my fantasy team too.

  6. randygnyc - May 1, 2012 at 8:38 PM

    Two steps from the bag, his knee wobbled and I guessed ACL. Torn hamstring is very bad, but not in the same universe.

    As far as value to a team, I’d agree that kemp, right now, is completely irreplaceable.

  7. mnhit55 - May 1, 2012 at 9:39 PM

    I read that Longoria’s WAR is around 6, so him missing 6-8 weeks would cost the Rays approx. 2 games.

    Certainly not ideal (especially considering how close the playoff race was last season), but not a “crushing blow” like the Sox and Yankees fans are hoping for.

    • Ari Collins - May 1, 2012 at 10:38 PM

      2 games is a huge deal in the hyper-competitive AL East, especially with the way the WCs are now penalized. 2 games would have made a huge difference to the Red Sox last year, for one.

  8. randygnyc - May 1, 2012 at 11:05 PM

    Flpunx- I watched it on MLB.tv with 3 other games so I didn’t have the sound on. When I tore my ACL, I grabbed the back of my knee, because that’s we’re I felt it pop. Grotesque pain, btw.

  9. spudchukar - May 1, 2012 at 11:25 PM

    flpunx, I shouldn’t have said “tuned into the Mariner broadcast”, was watching on Root Northwest. That said there was still an earlier sign that Longoria had pulled his hamstring, when mid-stride he pulled up, sure-fire indication of a hamstring pull.

    As to bobdira, are you always so elegant? Yankee fan? Nnot really, more of a Mariner and Rays fan, but not a Yankee hater either. So from what I gather any criticism, whether direct or indirect makes you uncomfortable, and results in childlike retorts. Typical.

  10. patsfiend - May 1, 2012 at 11:55 PM

    Too bad. Great player and injuries suck. Hope a quick recovery for the kid. After the Sox, as ridiculous as it may seem… I root for the Rays.

  11. brianbosworthisstonecold - May 2, 2012 at 12:54 AM

    Not a rays fan but enjoy watching him play. Hope he recovers quickly!

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