Evan Longoria to begin playing in rehab games Saturday

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After missing six weeks due to a partially torn left hamstring, Evan Longoria is finally ready for game action.

According to Adam Berry of MLB.com, Longoria will join Triple-A Durham tomorrow to work out with the team and will serve as the designated hitter on Saturday. He was cleared for a rehab stint after running the bases prior to today’s game against the Mets.

There’s no clear timetable for his return, but Rays manager Joe Maddon told Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times last week that Longoria would likely spend 7-10 days on a rehab assignment.

Longoria, 26, was batting .329/.433/.561 with four home runs, 19 RBI and a .994 OPS in 97 plate appearances prior to the injury. The Rays have gone 20-20 during his absence.

Jeff Keppinger, who is currently on the disabled list with a broken big right toe, is also scheduled to play in rehab games this weekend with Triple-A Durham.

Orioles sign Alcides Escobar

Alcides Escobar
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The Orioles have inked shortstop Alcides Escobar to a minor league contract, MLB.com’s Joe Trezza reported Saturday. The deal comes with an invitation to spring training and will allow Escobar to earn $700,000 in the majors if he breaks camp with the team (via Jon Heyman of MLB Network). The team has yet to formally announce the agreement.

Escobar, 32, completed an eight-year run with the Royals in 2018. No longer the .280-average, 3.0-fWAR player of seasons past, he hit several career lows after batting .231/.279/.313 with four home runs, eight stolen bases (in 10 chances), and a .593 OPS through 531 plate appearances last year. His defensive ratings also took a hit, and FanGraphs pegged him as the fourth-worst shortstop in the majors after he accumulated -12 DRS over the course of the season, only slightly higher than the Orioles/Dodgers’ Manny Machado, Mets’ Amed Rosario, and Red Sox’ Xander Bogaerts.

Still, Heyman holds that Escobar is being considered for the starting gig this spring and could yet prove an upgrade over top prospects and infield candidates Richie Martin and Drew Jackson. At the very least, the veteran shortstop figures to stabilize the position given Martin and Jackson’s relative inexperience, as both infielders played to varying results in Double-A Tulsa last year and have yet to break into the majors. Should either player earn consideration for the position in camp, however, Escobar might still work his way onto the Opening Day roster in a utility role as he saw some time at third base, second base, and center field in 2018.