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.

Reds ink Oliver Perez to a minor-league deal

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The Reds have signed free agent reliever Oliver Perez to a minor-league contract, the team announced Saturday. The deal comes with a major-league invite and could be worth $1.25 million if Perez secures a roster spot this spring, with an additional $500,000 in potential performance bonuses.

Perez, 36, is coming off of a two-year run with the Nationals. He produced a 4.64 ERA, 3.3 BB/9 an d10.6 SO/9 through 50 relief appearances and 33 innings with the club in 2017. The veteran lefty hasn’t kept an ERA under 4.00 in at least four seasons, but he continues to be undeniably solid against left-handed batters, holding them to a .227/.301/.364 batting line over 18 1/3 innings last year.

While returning southpaw Wandy Peralta appears to have locked down a bullpen spot already, Perez will still compete for another role against fellow left-handers Cody Reed and Amir Garrett, both of whom also have experience in the rotation. If Perez doesn’t break camp with the team, MLB.com’s Mark Sheldon notes, he’ll be permitted to opt out of his contract. The Reds are currently looking to bounce back from a dismal performance in 2017, one in which their bullpen ranked 28th among major league teams with a collective 5.63 ERA and -1.2 fWAR.