Longoria excited to play for Team USA
Third baseman will join team before facing Japan in Classic
PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. -- Evan Longoria was scratched from Friday's lineup. Instead of facing the Blue Jays in Dunedin, Fla., the Rays third baseman faced a cross-country flight from Tampa to Los Angeles after being added to Team USA's roster on Thursday night.
"I'm excited," Longoria said. "It will be fun. Any time you get to put on the USA colors and play for your country it's an honor."
Longoria's name had been bantered about all week as a likely addition to the team after Chipper Jones was injured. But Longoria remained in the dark as late as Thursday afternoon about whether he would be asked to join the team. Team USA's only options for replacements were on the provisional roster. In addition to Longoria, catcher A.J. Pierzynski was on the provisional roster, as were first baseman Derrek Lee and outfielders Grady Sizemore and Ryan Ludwick.
Team USA third baseman David Wright fouled a ball off his left foot on Wednesday, cracking the nail on his big toe, which further weakened the team's overall health. If Wright can't play, Longoria will step in to do so.
"I'm assuming [David Wright] will be good to go, but if he's not, I'll be ready," Longoria said.
USA Baseball Executive Director/CEO Paul Seiler said they were disappointed to lose a player the caliber of Jones.
"But at the same time so very fortunate to add a player as talented as Evan Longoria," Seiler said. "With the opportunity to make a roster change, Evan is too valuable not to have on our club."
Rays manager Joe Maddon spoke to Longoria Friday morning before the team bus left Port Charlotte for Dunedin.
"He came in this morning, I wished him well," Maddon said. "I really just said to have a great time with it. He's excited about it. ... Again, it's a great opportunity for him. It's a great life experience. Knowing him I think he'll handle it right."
Longoria will join teammate J.P. Howell on Team USA as they square off against teammate Akinori Iwamura's Japan team Sunday night at 8 p.m. ET at Dodger Stadium.
"I'm eager to see the boys out there," Maddon said.
Regardless of who wins, all three players should be back with the Rays next week since the Classic's championship game is Monday night.
Bill Chastain is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.