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.

Pirates pitcher Steven Brault sang the National Anthem last night

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Pittsburgh Pirates swingman Steven Brault has a 4.38 ERA in 19 games this year. He also has a music degree and is a professional singer on the side of his baseball gig. He didn’t get into last night’s game against the Brewers as a pitcher, but he did get to use his singing skills.

Specifically, Brault got to sing the National Anthem. And he did an OK job of it too. He’s not Whitney Houston or anything, but he did what all Anthem singers who are not as gifted as Whitney Houston was should do: he kept it straight and businesslike, avoiding unnecessary flourishes:

It’s march, dang it, not a ballad, and it should be treated as such. Unless of course you’re Whitney Houston.