So, I was at the ballpark last night. Evan Longoria was in town with Durham on a rehab assignment- having injured his hamstring earlier in the year. I’ve seen him before in the big leagues, but the chance to see a ballplayer on a rehab assignment in the minors is something you should never pass up: you can see them far closer for far cheaper. Why, you can get close enough to realize they have begun growing more facial hair.
Good thing I went last night, otherwise I wouldn’t have seen him at all.
As you probably read elsewhere, Longoria has had a setback, and his rehabilitation has been placed on hold indefinitely. I’m no expert on medicine or athletic physiology, but I can say what I saw.
Pre-game, Longoria looked fine: he signed autographs, he did some light running in the outfield, played a game of long-toss. Standard pre-game stuff. When he came in, he even signed an autograph for a kid sitting behind a dugout.
He was in the lineup for Durham batting third and playing DH. So it didn’t take long for him to come to the plate to face Steve Hirschfeld. The at-bat ended with a sharply hit grounder down the third-base line, which was nicely snagged by a diving Danny Valencia, who threw Longoria out.
In hindsight, it was obvious that something was wrong. Longoria was slow out of the box and couldn’t get faster than a jog as he went for first base. By the time that Valencia had thrown him out, I’d say he would have been lucky if he was halfway to the bag. He was going about as fast as a slow-running catcher.
Still, it really didn’t dawn on anybody that that was anything out of the ordinary- sometimes guys on rehab are asked to go half-speed on likely outs so as to not get hurt. But then, later, he was pinch-hit for. Perhaps a person who is rehabbing will get pinch-hit for later in the game game, but not after one AB.
And so, it later came out he had had a setback with his hamstring. Thus ended one of the shortest and most bizarre rehab starts I have ever seen. It’s up there with the time I saw Michael Cuddyer get hit by a line-drive in the leg, or the time that Kaz Matsui was called up by the Mets after maybe two innings.
Big picture wise, this couldn’t have come at a worse time for the Tampa Bay Rays. The Yankees are on fire, the Orioles still haven’t gone away, and they find themselves four games back. This is, of course, nothing for the Rays, especially given how we are still before the all-star break. But it must worry Joe Maddon and the Rays front office that their best player may not be back as soon as they hoped.
It’s also bad for baseball. Longoria is one of the league’s faces, showing up in commercials, video games and advertising. And rightfully so, as he is a legitimately great player, a perennial All-Star and likely future MVP.
But he can’t do any of that if he’s injured.