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.
Sportsnet’s Ben Nicholson-Smith reports that the Blue Jays and third baseman Josh Donaldson are tabling extension talks as the two sides weren’t able to build any momentum towards agreement on a new contract.
Donaldson said, “We’re not quite there. That, to me, right now is not the major focus and I’m turning the page.” He added, “I want to play this season and really focus on winning games because, ultimately, our goal is to win a World Series and I don’t want to hinder that at all.” Donaldson also said he expects to hit free agency.
The 32-year-old avoided arbitration with the Blue Jays last month, agreeing on a $23 million salary for the 2018 season. He’s a free agent at season’s end. Last year, the three-time All-Star hit .270/.385/.559 with 33 home runs, 78 RBI, and 65 runs scored in 496 plate appearances. Donaldson missed six weeks in the first half with a calf injury, but was able to return and post terrific numbers, so his health — at least that aspect of it — shouldn’t be a concern going into spring training.
If Donaldson does reach free agency, he’ll join a star-studded group that will likely also include Bryce Harper, Manny Machado, Charlie Blackmon, and A.J. Pollock.