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PETERSBURG -- Evan Longoria smiled Friday afternoon when told that the most popular question among Tampa Bay sports fans is, "When will the Rays' star third baseman be back with the team?"
"It's the most popular question in my mind, too," Longoria said. "I don't really have an update. I've seen a lot of reports and a lot of people talking about how my year is done. I don't believe my year is done by any means. But I wish I could give anybody a concrete time frame. There are a lot of things that I can do. And it just feels like sometimes I'm so close and still so far away."
One thing is certain, Longoria does not believe his season is over, which is in contrast to some of the speculation.
"I can be sincere and say that I don't think the year is over with," Longoria said. "Nobody has told me that. I haven't told myself that. Just continue to push forward, and hopefully, whether it's in two days, two weeks, two months, at some point I'll be able to play again. I just have to try and stay as positive and confident as I can."
Longoria has not played for the Rays since April 30, when he sustained a partially torn left hamstring. He was hitting .329 with four home runs and 19 RBIs in 23 games before his injury.
Given the odd nature for the recovery of a hamstring injury, Longoria said he is doing all he can do.
"I just have to continue to strengthen it," Longoria said. "Really, that's all I've been doing. There have been just a couple of things that really hinder me. The main thing is just trying to go for a backhanded ground ball. Other than that, I mean, I swing the bat fine. I've been jogging and getting up to pretty good speeds. And none of that really bothers me."
Since the backhanded play is really the only movement that seems to bother him, Longoria said he asked Ron Porterfield, the Rays' head athletic trainer, on Friday about the prospect of serving as the designated hitter.
"I think theoretically, I'm going to get to the point where I can run fairly shortly," Longoria said. "I've been running arcs pretty good. I asked [Porterfield] today. [Being used at DH is] something to think about. It's something that obviously they would have to talk to [Rays executive vice president of baseball operations] Andrew [Friedman] and everybody else about. I just want to be back on the field, if that is a way that I can be back."
Longoria took time to attend Wednesday night's ESPY Awards in Los Angeles, which some of his critics questioned since he's rehabbing an injury. When asked his feelings about said criticism, Longoria said, "It angers you at some point."
"Because I can still walk around," Longoria said. "I'm still allowed to have fun. ... We all need to have time to get away from the game, time to mentally recover, because like I said, it has been tough. And so regardless of if I was at the All-Star Game or if I was not and I was here in Tampa and I was healthy, I was going to go to the ESPYs, so it's not like you can't have fun. I enjoyed it and I enjoyed the break. Now it's back to work."
Joe Maddon backed Longoria in regard to his traveling to the ESPYs.
"It's so easy for people to bark when they have no idea exactly what's going on," the Rays' manager said. "When you pull a hamstring, that hurts a lot, not just a little bit. It should not preclude him from getting on an airplane and flying to an awards ceremony. He's been working very diligently to come on back.
"Competitively, on a daily basis or a game-by-game basis, he's about as competitive as any player I've ever had, the good ones. He expects a lot of himself, he shoulders a lot of the weight."
Longoria said he never expected to be away as long as he has.
"When something like this happens, it's hard to say to yourself that it's going to be four months, five months," Longoria said. "Every injury that we go through, every little nick and bruise that we get, we tell ourselves it's going to be a day or two only. It's hard to really put that kind of time frame on any kind of injury. It's been mentally really, really tough to go through. It's tough to look at my Twitter every day and people say that I'm not the kind of competitor or player that they thought. So that [stinks]."