Evan Longoria says injured oblique already feels “really good”

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Rays third baseman Evan Longoria went down with a left oblique strain in the second game of the regular season. With the exception of this week’s rain-shortened series at Boston’s Fenway Park, the Tampa Bay lineup has struggled mightily to score runs consistently in his absence.

Good news.

Longoria is on schedule — and maybe even ahead of schedule — in his recovery from the strain.

According to Tony Fabrizio of the Tampa Tribune, Longo began running arcs in the outfield earlier this week and did rotational exercises with a medicine ball Thursday in a training pool.

“I feel really good,” Longoria told reporters Thursday evening. “This is the point in time where the trainers kind of have to do their job in forcing me to back off of it, but I feel like there is an opportunity to push a little more.

Like I said from the beginning, I didn’t feel like it was as bad as it showed (on an MRI). So we’re kind of treating it that way, just doing what I can and trying to keep the progression as slow as they can make me go. But the last couple of days have been real promising.”

Longoria, 25, is on track to return the Rays by the end of April, but a minor league rehab assignment will come first and that has not yet been scheduled. He was 0-for-5 with a walk before the injury.

Battle of the Aces: Max Scherzer takes on Clayton Kershaw tonight

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I hope you don’t have any plans tonight at around 10PM Eastern time, because that’s when we get a pitching matchup for the ages as Max Scherzer will take on Clayton Kershaw at Dodger Stadium. When they meet tonight it will be the first time two pitchers with three or more Cy Young Awards have matched up since 2006. That year, and in 2005 and 2000, Roger Clemens faced Greg Maddux. In 2001 Clemens faced Pedro Martinez.

Kershaw won his hardware in 2011, 2013 and 2014, with an MVP award in 2014 to boot. Scherzer collected trophies in 2013, 2016 and 2017. Each has started the 2018 season in Cy Young form. Kershaw is 1-2, but that record is due to poor run support. He has a 1.73 ERA and has struck out 31 batters and has walked only three in 26 innings. Scherzer is 3-1 with a 1.33 ERA and a whopping 38 strikeouts to only 4 walks in 27 innings.

This will be the third time that Kershaw and Scherzer faced each other if you include the playoffs. The first meeting was a decade ago when both were rookies. They most recently faced off in Game 1 of the 2016 NLDS, way back when Scherzer only had one Cy Young Award to his credit. Kershaw beat Scherzer in that playoff game and the Dodgers beat Scherzer’s teams in the two regular season matchups, with neither guy setting the world on fire. As so often happens in baseball, the hype hasn’t been matched by reality.

Still, there’s always a chance it will. And even if, in the end, this turns into a slugfest, the first couple of innings should at least give us some hope of something good. I’ll be watching.