Longoria steals the spotlight again

By Joe Smith, Times staff writer
Published March 2, 2008

ST. PETERSBURG - For the second straight day, 3B Evan Longoria stole the show.

The touted prospect, 22, entered Saturday's 5-2 win over Toronto in the sixth as a pinch-hitter. With the Rays down 2-1, Longoria drilled a two-run triple to the right-center gap.

The heroics came one day after the could-be-rookie crushed a tying double off the left-centerfield wall against the Reds, wowing those in the crowd - and his own dugout.

Said SS Jason Bartlett: "You can call him, 'Evan Almighty.'"

Longoria simply hopes the Rays call his name when picking their opening day roster. The brass has said even if he hits .500, it doesn't mean he'll break camp. At this pace, Longoria may end up calling them on that.

"Like I said before, all I've got to worry about is my job and what I have to do," he said. "I just got to keep doing what I'm doing and try to make the decision difficult for them."

ROCCO A GO: Rocco Baldelli's first game since his season-ending hamstring injury in May was uneventful, just the way he liked it. He got a nice ovation from the crowd of 4,918, before his first at-bat as DH. He then grounded into a forceout at third.

TRAINING TABLE: LHP Scott Kazmir is making progress in getting the inflammation out of his left elbow but is still in "Phase 1" of his recovery, manager Joe Maddon said, and not ready to resume throwing. LHP David Price, the team's top pick who was scratched Tuesday for shoulder stiffness, said he's going to throw bullpen today and hopes to get in his first game Wednesday. Maddon said SS Reid Brignac (broken toe) is getting closer to his return.

HEAVY HEART: Maddon's future mother-in-law, Eileen Sousoures, lost her battle to cancer Friday in Southern California. She is survived by her husband, Ted. Maddon said he doesn't foresee missing any games.

SHIELDS STEPS IN: RHP James Shields had an up-and-down spring debut. After a 1-2-3 first, he loaded the bases in the second, giving up one run but walking one and hitting another. Shields said he threw too much with his body instead of his arm.

MISCELLANY: C Dioner Navarro will get a couple of DH at-bats today and make his first spring start Monday. RHP Troy Percival will make his spring debut this week. ... Maddon praised 2B Elliot Johnson for his two two-strike hits Saturday.

Joe Smith can be reached at joesmith@sptimes.com