ST. PETERSBURG -- Prior to Tuesday night's game, third baseman Evan Longoria was activated from the 15-day disabled list after missing the last 26 games with a left oblique strain.
Longoria got one hit in four trips to the plate in the Rays' 3-2 win. In addition, he flashed some leather, making a nifty back-handed stab of J.P. Arencibia's shot down the line in the second. The Gold Glove Award-winning third baseman then threw across his body to get Arencibia at first.
Longoria was placed on the DL on April 3, just 40 hours into the season.
"Hopefully I can catch up with these guys and be in stride with them as soon as possible," Longoria said.
Longoria went 4-for-15 with three home runs in his four-game rehab assignment with Double-A Montgomery. He noted that getting some good results in his return helped.
"You don't want to go 0-for-20 in a rehab stint," Longoria said. "Obviously you have to experience some results in this game to have any kind of confidence. Hitting a couple of home runs was kind of a feel-good thing. I really wasn't expecting results. I was expecting to feel good and be positive going into the next day."
Longoria said experiencing the Minor Leagues again was strange.
"It's just weird going back down there again," Longoria said. "You don't realize what you have here until you go back down there. Not having fresh coffee. I don't think I drank a cup of coffee down there. I probably drink three or four cups here. Just obviously, not used to the spreads, or lack thereof. So it's definitely a little bit different."
Having been gone as long as he was, Longoria expected to receive his share of razzing and noted that it's is all in fun.
"It feels like it's been forever [since] I've been on the field and in uniform contributing," Longoria said. "I expect it. And they wouldn't be good teammates if they weren't busting my chops a little bit."
The Rays went 15-11 in Longoria's absence. The three players who have played in place of Longoria (Felipe Lopez, Sean Rodriguez and Dan Johnson) have hit a combined .198 (19-for-96) with two home runs, 11 RBIs and 31 strikeouts while playing third.
Rays adjust roster, and Gomes gets action
ST. PETERSBURG -- Some tweaking of the Rays' roster took place prior to Tuesday night's game against the Blue Jays.
The first of the moves took place Tuesday afternoon, when right-hander Brandon Gomes was recalled from Triple-A Durham to replace Alex Cobb, who made a spot start for the team on Sunday before getting returned to the Bulls.
Left-hander Jake McGee was sent to Durham after Saturday's game to make room for Cobb, but according to the rules, McGee could not return to the Major Leagues until after 10 days passed unless another player got hurt.
Gomes came to the Rays in December, in the deal that sent shortstop Jason Bartlett to the Padres.
"It's amazing how quick things turn around," Gomes said. "I was in Double-A all last year. And just like that, [I'm] in the big leagues. It's just amazing, and I really appreciate the opportunity they're giving me. Hopefully I can take advantage of it."
Gomes was 6-for-6 in save opportunities with Durham during his first stint in Triple-A. He had 22 strikeouts and five walks in 13 1/3 innings.
"I was just trying to go out there and pound the zone with all of my pitches," Gomes said. "Not trying to overdo anything. It was good -- I was getting to close some, too."
Gomes quickly got into the fray Tuesday night, pitching two scoreless innings in the Rays' 3-2 win. John McDonald was the first Major League hitter he faced and he threw a high and tight one on his first delivery before getting comfortable on the mound.
"It was great," Gomes said. "I went out there and that first one kind of got away from me, but after that I tried to settle down and just throw strikes and keep us in the game."
The second move took place Tuesday, when Felipe Lopez was designated for assignment in order to make room on the roster for Evan Longoria. Lopez hit .222 with two home runs and six RBIs in 24 games for the Rays.
Maddon reluctantly gave Lopez the news via a phone call Tuesday.
"It's not the optimum way to do it," Maddon said. "... He was great, we talked briefly on the phone, then his agent spoke with [Rays executive vice president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman] after that."
Maddon had to bench Lopez during his time on the team for not running out a ground ball. The manager stressed that the episode had no bearing on Tuesday's decision.
"... I'm hoping that we're able to keep Felipe some way," Maddon said. "That he can go back to Triple-A, and that he'll be able to work his way back up here at some point somehow."
Rays' Howell makes progress; Durham next
ST. PETERSBURG -- Left-hander J.P. Howell (left-shoulder surgery) has made four rehab appearances, including two with Class A Charlotte. In four games, he has allowed no runs on five hits and a walk with nine strikeouts in 4 2/3 innings.
His last outing came Sunday for Charlotte against Fort Myers. He will head to Durham, where his next appearance will come Thursday against Syracuse, an affiliate of the Blue Jays.
He is scheduled to make five appearances while at Durham. If all goes well, Howell should be back with the team by May 16 or 17, according to Howell.
"It's not that far away, so I'm knocking on the door, finally," Howell said. "It's like the day before Christmas. It's starting to slow down for me."
Rotation tweaked with Hellickson moved back
ST. PETERSBURG -- The Rays have changed around their rotation, with Jeremy Hellickson pushed back until Saturday. By doing so, David Price and James Shield will move up to start Thursday's and Friday's games, respectively.
"We wanted to optimize the usage of Price and Shields," Rays manager Joe Maddon said. "It's no slight to Helly. I mean, Helly's just moving back. Over the course of the season, we have to watch Helly's innings, anyway. It all fit, and this way, they have one less day off.
"They're still going to have an extra day going into these starts, Price and Shields. But now they're not going to have two extra days. It's about keeping them as close to their schedule as possible and really only interrupting one guy in a severe manner. But I think Helly can handle it."
The rainout in Minnesota and Monday's off-day were contributing factors to getting the Rays' rotation off-kilter.
Bill Chastain is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.