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.

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.