Rays manager Joe Maddon has several smaller managerial tasks within his overall duties, and one of the most important right now is nursing along Evan Longoria.
After missing most of the season with a partial tear of his left hamstring, Longoria returned to designated hitter duties on Aug. 7 and the Rays are 8-2 since then.
No telling yet when he will play third base, though Longoria says, "hopefully, soon."
"We're shooting for the next week or two," says Longoria, who is batting .304/.388/.504 with five homers and 26 RBI in 32 games. "I've been getting closer and closer every day.
"We're trying to be as smart as we can. When the time is right, I'll be out there."
Down to just 44 games remaining and tied with the Orioles for the two AL Wild-Card playoff slots, Tampa Bay clearly has a better chance at advancing to its fourth postseason in the past six years with Longoria than without. The Rays are 21-10 with him in the lineup this seasons and 42-44 with him on the shelf.
Partly tied in with Longoria's status is that of Luke Scott, who is rehabbing an oblique strain at Class A Charlotte and is expected to rejoin the Rays on Monday or Tuesday. When Scott returns, the Rays will have more flexibility with Longoria.
"They can break me slowly in," Longoria says. "Maybe play [in the field] two days, then DH a day, then play two and then DH a day.
"I'll go off of how I feel. I'm taking ground balls in batting practice, trying to recreate game speed as best as I can."