ST. PETERSBURG -- The Rays sent 14 players to the disabled list in the first half of the season, the second most in the American League.
By the end of the season, that list may be down to Brandon Guyer, who underwent left shoulder surgery, and Robinson Chirinos, whose status is still uncertain due to a concussion.
The first player to come off the DL may be Sam Fuld. The outfielder is currently on a rehab assignment for Class A Advanced Charlotte and has gone 1-for-8 in his time there. He is expected to play seven innings in left field on Thursday after playing seven in center field on Wednesday.
Another likely candidate is fellow outfielder Matt Joyce, who dealt with back tightness in a rehab assignment just before the All-Star break. He was originally placed on the DL because of a left oblique injury, which he said has healed and allowed him to take batting practice.
"Right now, we're looking within two weeks," Joyce said about a possible return date. "I'm pretty optimistic about that."
Right-handed starter Jeff Niemann was seen playing catch with pitcher Wade Davis before the team's optional workout on Thursday, and executive vice president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman said Niemann could be back in August.
Third baseman Evan Longoria's status remains in question, however. Friedman said that because of the nature of Longoria's partially torn left hamstring, it's difficult to assess when he may return to the club. All that Friedman would say is that he expects Longoria to be healthy before the end of the season.
"I'm confident that he will be back, and I'm not putting a timetable on it," Friedman said. "Hopefully in the next couple weeks, it will be a little more evident of what we can expect."
Friedman also added that should the circumstance arise, he would not be hesitant to call up a player from Triple-A Durham, saying he would be comfortable with a number of options, including right-hander Chris Archer and infielder Reid Brignac, among others.