The Tampa Bay Rays haven’t had any trouble producing at the plate lately, and they hope to keep that going with one of their top prospects ready to join the roster.
Third baseman Evan Longoria expects to make his much-anticipated major league debut on Saturday when the hot-hitting Rays look continue their three-game set against the Baltimore Orioles at Tropicana Field.
Longoria, the third overall pick in the June 2006 draft, was recalled from Triple-A Durham to replace Willy Aybar, who was placed on the 15-day disabled list after missing a second straight game on Friday with a sore left hamstring that could sideline him up to four weeks.
“We’ve been decimated by injuries. It’s not necessarily the ideal way that we wanted to call him up,” Rays executive vice president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman said.
“But we’re confident in his ability to adjust at the plate, and what he brings to us defensively is something that we felt was very important to where we’re going.”
Longoria, who hit .200 with five RBIs in seven games at Durham, joins a Rays (5-5) team that is also without designated hitter Cliff Floyd, who will miss the next four to six weeks after undergoing surgery on his right knee to repair a torn meniscus.
Still, that does not appear to be limiting their offensive power lately.
Tampa Bay has scored 17 runs and 25 hits in winning its last two games. The team pounded out a season high-tying 15 hits and rallied for a 10-5 victory over Baltimore (6-4) in Friday’s series opener.
First baseman Carlos Pena homered twice and drew a bases-loaded walk in the eighth inning to finish with six RBIs - one shy of his career high.
“Hitting, winning. It’s just contagious,” said Pena, who has five homers and 12 RBIs despite hitting .216 (8-for-37) this season. “You flow with it, and (Friday) we swung the bat great.”
Pena led Tampa Bay with 46 homers and 121 RBIs en route to earning the 2007 AL comeback player of the year award.
The right-hander is 0-3 with an 8.84 ERA in four career starts versus the Orioles, but is 0-2 with a 14.09 ERA in two matchups at Tropicana Field, where he went 0-3 with a 6.45 ERA in 11 games last season.
Baltimore has dropped three straight since its six-game winning streak, and looks to avoid another defeat in Tampa Bay. The Orioles haven’t lost three straight there since a four-game skid from April 14-July 24, 2005.
“It’s not the end of the world,” said reliever Dennis Sarfate, who took Friday’s loss. “It’s still early. … We’ll win tomorrow and forget about it.”
The Orioles hope Daniel Cabrera (0-0, 9.00) can help them end their recent struggles.
Cabrera has not received a decision in his two appearances - both Orioles’ victories. The right-hander gave up four runs and five hits while striking out five in six innings in a 5-4 home win over Seattle on Monday.
He could secure his first win if he can extend his success against the Rays. He is 6-0 with a 3.63 ERA in 12 starts, going 3-0 with a 2.76 ERA in five appearances at Tropicana Field.
Cabrera, though, will have to contain Pena, who has hit .385 (5-for-13) with two homers and five RBIs in their matchups.