Evan Longoria to begin rehab assignment Thursday, aiming to come off DL early next week

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Evan Longoria has been out since straining his oblique muscle in the second game of the season, but Mark Topkin of the St. Petersburg Times reports that he’s scheduled to begin a brief minor-league rehab assignment Thursday.

Assuming he can avoid a setback while playing at Double-A, Longoria is aiming to come off the disabled list and rejoin the Rays’ lineup next Tuesday.

Tampa Bay has recovered nicely from a 1-8 start, going 10-3 against the Red Sox, Twins, White Sox, and Blue Jays despite Longoria’s fill-ins, Felipe Lopez and Sean Rodriguez, combining to hit just .208 starting in his place.

Kendrys Morales pitched a scoreless inning Sunday

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Nothing went right for the Blue Jays this weekend. The club was swept in a four-game series against the Athletics, including a 9-2 loss on Sunday. Not wanting to burn out his bullpen in a lopsided game — and perhaps thinking about the general entertainment value involved — Blue Jays manager John Gibbons decided to send designated hitter Kendrys Morales out to pitch the ninth inning. And in typical baseball fashion, he saw better results than some of the dudes who do this all the time.

Morales, who actually pitched in Cuba nearly 20 years ago, worked around a walk for a scoreless inning. He induced three fly outs and topped out at 87.4 mph on his fastball, per Brooks Baseball. He received a standing ovation on the way back to the dugout. Morales hasn’t been hearing that sort of thing for his contributions with the bat recently.

Morales, 34, is batting just .163/.248/.279 with three home runs through 32 games this season. There’s been some understandable clamoring for top prospect Vladmir Guerrero, Jr. to cut into his at-bats. For his part, Morales has been doing everything he can to break out of his slumber at the plate, including ditching the glasses he started wearing during spring training. Hey, whatever works. Morales also had two of Toronto’s four hits on Sunday.

On the heels of Morales’ first MLB appearance on the mound, it feels rather appropriate that the Blue Jays will get their first look at Angels sensation Shohei Ohtani — at least as a hitter — beginning on Tuesday.