As expected Evan Longoria is off the disabled list and back in the Rays’ lineup tonight for the first time since April 30.
Longoria, who missed 85 games with a hamstring injury, is batting cleanup but for now at least the Rays are keeping him off the field defensively by using him at designated hitter.
Limiting Longoria’s odds of a setback by asking him to simply hit 4-5 times per game seems like a worthwhile idea, particularly since third baseman Ryan Roberts would probably be in the lineup anyway.
Tampa Bay went 41-44 in Longoria’s absence and trails New York by 7.0 games in the AL East, but is just 2.0 games out of a Wild Card spot.
No surprise here: Chris Sale will start on Opening Day for the Red Sox, Pete Abraham of The Boston Globe reports. The Red Sox open the season on March 29 in Tampa Bay against the Rays. Sale will oppose Chris Archer.
Sale, 28, is the fifth different Opening Day starter the Red Sox have had in as many years, preceded by Rick Porcello, David Price, Clay Buchholz, and Jon Lester. Sale started on Opening Day for the White Sox in 2013, ’14, and ’16.
Sale finished second in AL Cy Young Award balloting last year and finished ninth for AL MVP. He went 17-8 with a 2.90 ERA and a 308/43 K/BB ratio in 214 1/3 innings. Sale and Clayton Kershaw (2015) are the only pitchers to strike out 300 or more batters in a season dating back to 2003.