View Full Game Coverage
YORK -- Evan Longoria is close to reaching a point where he can begin playing games again.
The Rays' third baseman has been on the disabled list with a partially torn left hamstring since May 1 and has missed 32 games since.
"It's feeling good," Longoria said. "It's at the point where I'm ready to push it. I'm ready to see where we can get on a daily basis. I think we're past all the bad stuff. It's taken a lot of steps forward in the last week and a half, so I think right now, the optimistic goal is to go out somewhere and play at the end of this road trip."
Rays manager Joe Maddon noted that as the team approaches the end of its current road trip -- during which Longoria is traveling with the club -- the Rays should have his rehab assignment mapped out.
"He's not far from doing that," Maddon said.
Once Longoria begins his rehab assignment, the timetable for his return to the Majors will be up for debate.
"I hope it's just one game," Longoria said with a smile. "I want to be back right now. We haven't really talked about that. I would imagine it will be something similar to what I've done in the past -- maybe play a couple of days, take a day off, have another game there and meet the team wherever. ... I would anticipate anywhere between two and five days."
Maddon's schedule sounded a little more conservative.
"I'm thinking once he begins, it should be at least a week to 10 days from the beginning of his rehab assignment," Maddon said. "Again, it's not worrying about whether he can hit, or catch a ground ball or whatever. It's about being on the field for nine innings. How does his hamstring feel? Can he run? Can he cut bases? Can he slide? That's the bigger concern. He'll know [when he's ready]."
Longoria said that being back with the team and playing before the end of the month "would be a very conservative estimate."
"I'm optimistic the way it feels right now, I could say with pretty fair certainty that somewhere around the middle of the month I would be back," Longoria said. "Right now, I don't anticipate any setbacks."
Longoria noted that baserunning and quick bursts are the only things he has not done during his workouts.
"I really haven't missed much hitting and throwing, and I've taken my ground balls for the last week and a half," Longoria said. "Hopefully, that works and I don't have to be out [longer]."
While Longoria is optimistic about a quick return, there is one mental challenge hanging over him.
"A lot of it is being able to get past the mental block of, 'Am I going to feel that again?'" Longoria said. "And that's probably not the case. But that's the mental hurdle you have to get over when you have stuff like this happen."
Longoria is no stranger to hamstring problems. So the question lingers about whether he will be able to pull back in the future before incurring another hamstring injury.
"That's kind of my cross to bear," Longoria said. "I only know how to play the game one way, and it's 100 percent. So it's always a learning experience when you have something like this. Hopefully, I can teach myself when in fact you do need to go 110 percent and those times when maybe you can help not be in this situation again and minimize the effort in a situation that may not need it."
The Rays entered Wednesday's game against the Yankees with a 16-16 record without Longoria, who was hitting .329 with four home runs and 19 RBIs at the time of his injury. During that period, the Rays managed to remain in first place.
"It's incredible," Longoria said. "I think our position itself speaks for itself. ... We've gotten some good wins. We've been lucky at times. Obviously, the pitching has really kept us in it and allowed us to win a lot of games, but it's exciting to get Desmond [Jennings] back, hopefully myself, we get [Jeff Keppinger] back and later in the year when we get [Jeff] Niemann back and [Kyle] Farnsworth, too. There's a lot of positive in front of us for a ballclub that's tied for first place still, and we haven't played all that well."