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Longoria gets his shot at the bigs

Longoria gets his shot at the bigs

ST. PETERSBURG -- Following Friday's game, the Rays placed Willy Aybar on the 15-day disabled list and called up top prospect Evan Longoria from Triple-A Durham to fill the roster spot.

"Obviously we've been decimated by injuries a bit, and it's not necessarily the ideal way we wanted to call him up," Rays executive vice president Andrew Friedman said. "But we're confident in his ability to adjust at the plate, and what he brings to us defensively is something that we felt was very important with where we are going."

Longoria was the front-runner to be the Rays' starting third baseman on Opening Day but was sent down to Durham following a spring in which he hit .262 with three home runs and 10 RBIs.

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At the time the 22-year-old was clearly disappointed, but he remained poised.

"It's never really easy to accept it," he said. "I came in and felt like I did what I needed to do ... but it's not really my spot to go back on it."

Aybar, who was the team's starting third baseman, was plagued all spring by soreness in his left hamstring, an injury he dutifully played through until late this week. The switch-hitter was out of the lineup Thursday and Friday, and was batting .292 with two doubles and a home run.

Friedman said Aybar is expected to miss "minimally" two weeks and he will be evaluated further following that timeframe.

"We have to see how he responds and comes back from the treatment and really get him some time off," Friedman said.

The unfortunate break could be exactly what Longoria needs. Although he started a dismal 0-for-14 in his first four games at Durham, Longoria has begun to get back on track, batting .136 with one RBI.

"Five games of at-bats at Triple-A doesn't really mean that much to us," Friedman said. "We had to react with what's going on, on the field."

When Longoria was sent down, rumors swirled it was to avoid arbitration and save the Rays money in signing the 22-year-old to a long-term contract down the road. With nine players now on the DL, tied for most in the Majors with the Cardinals, the Rays will face an interesting decision when Aybar does return.

Assuming Longoria gets regular playing time -- manager Joe Maddon said he would pencil Longoria in to start Saturday -- it very well could be his job to lose.

"We will see what happens and reassess when Willy's ready to come back," Friedman said. "We aren't going to address it specifically right now, and we'll let things play out."

Going into the spring, the Rays said one of the biggest factors in their decision would be how Longoria handled himself at the Major League level. Longoria's maturity and poise certainly sat well with his teammates.

"He's got a nice swing and he's a smart kid," Andy Sonnanstine said.

Sonnanstine was teammates with Longoria in Durham and said he has no doubts Longoria can play in the Majors.

"I think he will adjust pretty well," Sonnanstine said. "Evan will step in and jell with the team nicely."

Maddon also said he was thrilled to have Longoria back with the club.

"I'm very happy to see him come up," he said. "He's a wonderful young man, and I think he's very talented and he's going to be here for many years to come."

Brittany Ghiroli is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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