Longoria inching closer to rehab assignment

Longoria inching closer to rehab assignment

Longoria inching closer to rehab assignment
BALTIMORE -- Evan Longoria took what manager Joe Maddon called a positive step forward during a pregame workout on Tuesday in Baltimore, giving hope that the third baseman could begin a rehab assignment during the team's current nine-game road trip.

"He was pleased, and I was pleased watching him. Nice progress," Maddon said. "He may be a little bit closer than you think to being out and doing something and coming back to us."

Longoria was moved to the 60-day disabled list on Tuesday to make room for Sam Fuld on the 40-man roster, a move that has no effect on when Longoria can return from a partial tear in his left hamstring that he sustained on April 30.

After watching Longoria work on his hitting, throwing, fielding and baserunning on Tuesday, Maddon was "optimistic" about the third baseman's progress.

If Longoria can successfully handle another workout, Maddon and the training staff would likely feel comfortable starting a rehab assignment. The biggest thing they're still looking to see is Longoria's strength level in the leg.

Longoria had said his biggest issue was fielding ground balls with his backhand, but he did so without issue on Tuesday.

"He was not favoring the leg when he ran," Maddon said. "Unlike the last time we saw him, he was more guarding. He wasn't really guarding that I could see this time, so it was a good day."

Once Longoria begins a rehab assignment, Maddon said he would probably only need three or four games "maximum" to be ready to return to the Majors.

The biggest strides he needs to make in rehab starts would be offensively, as he can work on the defensive side of the game in workouts. Maddon even left the door open to the Rays using Longoria as a designated hitter.

"There's nothing wrong with that," Maddon said. "We'll see how it all plays out."

Luke Scott is also taking a wait-and-see approach with the right external oblique strain he suffered on Friday that has forced him to the disabled list.

Scott said the key is letting the injury calm down for about five days before he starts swinging a bat again. He still expects to make a minimum disabled list stint.

Pitcher Jeff Niemann threw his second bullpen session on Tuesday, firing 35 pitches -- all fastballs and changeups -- and saying he felt great and that the day was another good building block.

Progress coming back from a fractured fibula to his push leg has taken time, and Niemann said the key was getting strength back in his ankle.

"The arm feels great," Niemann said. "It's just a matter of getting everything else back into sync and in rhythm."

Niemann threw his first bullpen session on Saturday and expects to throw another on Friday, following a pair of off days.

As he builds up strength and mixes his breaking ball back into his repertoire, Niemann will eventually progress to simulated games and then a rehab assignment.

"It'd be nice to get all of these guys back," Maddon said. "It'd be so nice to have our normal team, and just see where we can go with that. We're getting close to that once again."