Evan Longoria to begin playing in rehab games on Thursday

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Forget about all of that almost ready talk.

According to beat writer Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times, Rays third baseman Evan Longoria has been cleared to embark on a minor league rehab assignment on Thursday evening with the Triple-A Durham Bulls. He packed a bag on Wednesday and announced to reporters before departing the visitors’ clubhouse at Baltimore’s Camden Yards that he was excited to “finally get to play baseball again.”

Longoria has been on the shelf since May 1 with a partially torn left hamstring. He’ll likely appear in four rehab games at Durham before returning to the Rays’ starting lineup by the middle of next week.

The 26-year-old third baseman was hitting .329 with a .994 OPS in 23 games before suffering the injury.

J.D. Martinez tells teams he prefers an outfield role

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Free agent outfielder/slugger J.D. Martinez is reportedly seeking an outfield gig, says Michael Silverman of the Boston Herald. According to Silverman’s sources, Martinez’s suitors have been informed that the veteran slugger would give preference to teams that can offer a corner outfield spot, rather than a DH-only role.

That could spell trouble for the Red Sox, who appear to be Martinez’s biggest suitors so far this offseason. Outfielders Mookie Betts and Andrew Benintendi are firmly established at the corners, and prior reports from club president Dave Dombrowski suggest that center fielder Jackie Bradley Jr. is not going anywhere anytime soon (thereby eliminating the possibility of reshuffling the outfield). The DH spot is still wide open for Martinez, who doesn’t seem to be totally closed off to the idea, but any full-time or part-time role on the field is likely off the table at this point.

Of course, the Red Sox aren’t the only ones pursuing Martinez’s services this winter. The 30-year-old slugger has been linked to both the Diamondbacks and Giants in weeks past, and while they have the roster flexibility to accommodate his preferences, they’ll need to clear another massive hurdle: the seven-year, $250 million contract he’s said to be seeking. Both clubs will need to get creative to make such a deal work. The Diamondbacks are rumored to be shopping right-hander Zack Greinke in an attempt to free up some room on their payroll for Martinez, while the Giants appear more inclined to scour the trade market for outfield help than shell out cash for another hefty contract in free agency.