ST. PETERSBURG -- Evan Longoria's bat work has been difficult to miss, as he has been the team's most consistent hitter since the start of the season.
Equally encouraging has been his return to form in the field after being slowed last season with his hamstring injury that eventually required surgery.
Those observing the Gold Glove third baseman since the beginning of Spring Training have witnessed a gradual progression from tentative movements to where he is now, back among the top fielding third basemen in baseball.
"In the spring I was just coming off the surgery, and I hadn't played at all, so a little bit of the hesitations and reservations were because of that," Longoria said. "I was just working myself back into baseball shape. Now I have a bunch of games under my belt, and I've felt good. I think just a lot of it is being back on the field."
Rays infield coach Tom Foley has seen the fluid nature of Longoria's movements and noted: "I just think he's playing the way he's capable of playing."
"In Spring Training he was taking it slowly," Foley added. "He was taking his days off, making sure he was taking care of his legs and stuff. Now he's out there, and he's doing his work. To me, he's Longoria.
"When he was hurt, you knew there were balls he wasn't going to get to. He was cautious with his legs. He had a little bit more trouble at the time last year going to his right than going to his left. So we moved him a step or two closer to the line, where going to the left was easier for him. For me it's just a gradual thing for him. He's probably not even thinking about it now."
Rays manager Joe Maddon was asked if anything he had seen about Longoria in the field told him that he had indeed returned to form.
He answered: "I think two things: the hard play to his left, when he really gets extended to his left, because he's really good with the ball to his right. When he gets extended to his left and gets up quickly to make a good throw. That tells me something. And the other one is just a slow roller with the bunt. That's just a hard play. And he makes that play great. But my point is, to be able to do that all the time, his legs have to feel good to do that. He's made a couple of those already."
Longoria acknowledges that he has been surprised about how good he has felt so far.
"You could say that I'm more fluid or whatever it is; I think it's just a product of being more comfortable," Longoria said. "Feeling like my legs are underneath me and I don't have anything to worry about as far as that goes."
Rays place Gomes on DL, call up Lueke
ST. PETERSBURG -- The Rays on Friday placed reliever Brandon Gomes on the 15-day disabled list with a right lat strain and recalled Josh Lueke from Triple-A Durham to take his place.
"This is something, it happened quickly," Gomes said. "A couple of games in Colorado, I wasn't feeling great, just trying to power through it. I was warming up last night. But once we won the game, it definitely was a good thing, because I didn't feel good. And I came in here, and I was like, 'I can't throw through it anymore.'"
Gomes, who last pitched Tuesday, had retired the three total batters he faced over his last three appearances. In 14 appearances this season, the right-hander had tallied a 5.40 ERA to go along with 16 strikeouts and just two walks over 11 2/3 innings of work.
"It's just painful every time I go to throw the ball," Gomes said. "I was trying to get through it with treatment. It was getting to the point where it was starting to affect stuff."
Lueke, meanwhile, had compiled a 2-0 record, seven saves and 0.95 ERA in 14 appearances with Durham.
"It's always surprising to get the news, because everybody up here's been doing their thing and just kind of going about it," Lueke said. "Every day, you follow the big club just to see what's going on up there, but in the same sense, you've got to kind of just stay level-headed and do your own thing. If it happens, it happens. If it doesn't, go out there the next day."
Lueke feels confident and more positive than he has in the past, thanks in part to a new approach.
"The physical adjustment would be just the change in work ethic, the change in the offseason workout approach altogether," Lueke said. "Working out with Gomes pushed me a lot harder than I've done in the past. Working with him and then getting into the earlier throwing -- because normally I'd kind of wait until like December to start throwing. We kind of started right when their season was over up here, so we got right into it. Then I just carried it over all the way through spring and just kind of rolling the ball uphill, I guess."
Because the two worked out together, Lueke called it "tough news" to be getting an opportunity at the expense of his friend.
"I'm glad he's not getting sent down or anything," Lueke said. "It's never good when somebody goes on the DL, especially obviously the guy I've been working out with the whole offseason. It'll be a quick comeback, and he'll get back out there and do what he does."
Established at plate, Scott might expand role
ST. PETERSBURG -- Since returning from the disabled list, Luke Scott has been hitting the ball like he once did with the Orioles before arriving to the Rays via free agency. However, he has been used as the DH and not in the field, which leads to speculation about what might happen the next time the team plays an Interleague contest in a National League ballpark. Could he be used in the field?
Scott was asked whether he was ready to play the field.
"Definitely, I'm getting even better as the days are going along," said Scott, who had right-shoulder surgery during the 2011 season. "Before it would be that I'd have a good day, then a day I'm sore, another good day, and a day I'm sore. Then it was two good days and a day I'm sore. Now it's three and four, five good days and a day I'm sore."
While some Rays fans might remember Scott when he played outfield for the Orioles, others have only recent memories of him solely as a DH.
"I played great defense my whole career," Scott said. "I made a bunch of diving plays early in my career. I ran into the wall a couple of times. I went after home run balls. I played really, really aggressive. But my body bounced back, and it healed."
The Rays' next Interleague contest at a National League park will be May 29-30 in Miami against the Marlins. Rays manager Joe Maddon said using Scott in the field would be a possibility in that series, given the way he had been looking with the bat.
Bill Chastain is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.