Rhymes, who was the Tigers' Opening Day second baseman in 2011, has some familiarity with third base having played the position during Spring Training for the Rays and he's had six starts at third base for Durham. But he's never played the position during a Major League game.
Rhymes started at third base for the Rays Wednesday night. He smiled when asked if playing third in the Major Leagues is any different than playing the position in the Minor Leagues.
"I'll let you know after the game," Rhymes said. "I don't know. I'm anxious to get out there and check out the turf and the roof. I've played here before, but not third base. ... I'll give it all I have and see what happens."
Longoria had an injured hand during Spring Training, which facilitated Rhymes playing the position more during Grapefruit League games. He said playing different positions was part of the appeal for signing with the Rays on Jan. 19.
"They were going to let me move around and play some different positions," Rhymes said. "It's pretty cool to get that opportunity. That they trust me enough to put me out there."
Players who sign Minor League contracts with invites to Spring Training, as Rhymes did, normally weigh their options for which of the offering teams is the best opportunity. Rhymes was asked if his promotion validated the things the Rays told him prior to signing with the team.
"Yeah, I can't thank them enough for signing me in the offseason, then giving me the opportunity," said Rhymes, who was hitting .231 at Durham. "I wasn't exactly knocking the cover off the ball at Triple-A. You know, but looking at the track record and everything, I can't thank them enough for the opportunity. It's a break.
"You lose Longoria and that's horrible for the team. And I'm not trying to fill his shoes at all. But if I can do anything to help them win a game or two here or there, that's all I'm trying to do."
Rhymes said the biggest challenge of playing third deals with how hard Major Leaguers hit the ball.
"The ball gets on you in a hurry, so you try and knock it down and bounce it over there," Rhymes said. "I was working there [at third] every day [at Durham]. Obviously, it's different when you get in the game, try to get all the plays. It's different. You can work all you want, but when you get in the game, it's different."
Rays manager Joe Maddon called Rhymes "a very nice baseball player."
"From the offensive side of things, he's the kind of guy that doesn't normally swing and miss," Maddon said. "He can hit lefties and righties almost equally well, always going to give you a great effort. He's a very interesting guy for us to have."
According to Maddon, the Rays will use a mix at third that includes Rhymes, Elliot Johnson, Jeff Keppinger and perhaps even Chris Gimenez. In addition, the possibility always exists of picking up a third baseman via trade.
"It's possible we could pick somebody, but it's probably going to be a revolving door," Maddon said. "It's just going to be based on our information and on that particular night what appears to be our best matchup."