Longoria to 'definitely' play Saturday

Longoria to 'definitely' play Saturday

ST. PETERSBURG -- Evan Longoria's sore left hamstring kept him out of the lineup for a second consecutive game Thursday, but he proclaimed himself available to pinch-hit prior to the game and manager Joe Maddon said the club would use him if necessary.

Longoria did some more light jogging and throwing Thursday, and he also hit live pitching in the batting cage. The only obstacle left for the 23-year-old to overcome in his recovery is to begin running at full speed, and though he's still "a day or two away" from that, he'd like to start at third base in the opener of a four-game series against the Yankees on Friday.

If Friday isn't a possibility, Longoria said he'll "definitely" play Saturday.

"I'm still not sure [about Friday]," said Maddon. "I just know that he's feeling better, and he took a bunch of swings inside and he felt like he could hit them. That's encouraging."

Longoria, who entered Thursday still leading the American League in RBIs with 55, suffered the injury while trying to beat out a grounder Tuesday.

"I felt a whole lot better waking up this morning, and hopefully it keeps progressing the way it does," Longoria said.

"When I'm ready to play, I want to be as close to 100 percent as I can be, both physically and mentally. ... I think if I try to rush back and feel any kind of discomfort or don't have full confidence in it, it's going to be just a hindrance to it. But I'm pretty close."

Shortstop Jason Bartlett couldn't even walk down steps a few days ago, so when he was able to do some jogging with his sprained left ankle Wednesday, he called it "the biggest step" in his recovery.

Bartlett, who hurt the ankle against the Marlins on May 24, felt a bit sore from the running Thursday. But he still did some hitting off a tee, and he tried to swing at a couple of live pitches in the cage. The shortstop will further test the ankle while running arcs beginning Friday.

The 29-year-old said he doesn't believe he'll need to play in any rehab games, but he's still not sure if he'll be ready to go by the time he's eligible to come off the disabled list Wednesday.

"It's hard to say because I can come out this weekend and try to run an arc and it feels just fine, or I can try to run an arc and I can't do it at all," Bartlett said. "It's just something that I have to see how it feels the next day and keep going there day-by-day."

Alden Gonzalez is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.