MINNEAPOLIS -- When third baseman Evan Longoria grounded out to third base in the first inning Tuesday night, he did not exactly fly down the line towards first base.

The reason for that was a nerve issue in his left foot, which has been an occasional problem for Longoria. Manager Joe Maddon said it was just something Longoria is going to have to fight through.

"It's like a toothache -- sometimes it just grabs you the wrong way and it might zing or burn for a moment," Maddon said. "Then, all of a sudden, it goes back to normal. That's what he's got.

"It could hurt him and then go away. That's pretty much what happened."

Longoria has not put up his usual numbers all season, and he has especially struggled lately. In his previous seven games before Wednesday, when he went 3-for-4 with a homer and four RBIs, Longoria batted just .115 with two doubles, a home run and four RBIs.

While the foot issue may have been the cause for Longoria's recent slump, Maddon pointed to the slugger's early season oblique injury to explain his low numbers through the first half of the 2011 season.

"It began with the oblique ... that was a month," Maddon said. "By not playing for that first month, I think that really set him back. He's been trying to play catch-up ever since."

Maddon said he was not concerned with Longoria's numbers, and the skipper believes that the bigger concern was his third baseman getting over the nerve issue in his left foot as quickly as possible.

If nothing else, not making the All-Star Game and struggling through the first half of the season could serve to help the long-term growth of the young Rays star.

"I'm sure it serves as motivation for him," Maddon said. "I know he's not been up to his standards, but he's still a pretty good baseball player regardless. He still does some great things for us."

Hand contusion could sideline Damon vs. Yanks

MINNEAPOLIS -- Fortunately for Johnny Damon, X-rays showed nothing was broken in his left hand after he was hit by Twins starter Francisco Liriano for the second time Wednesday.

Unfortunately for Damon and the Rays, he could still miss some time in the next series against the Yankees.

"I'm hoping to have a speedy recovery tonight so I can get back in the lineup," Damon said after Wednesday's game. "It got me pretty good -- probably the worst I've gotten in my career, and I've taken one off the face before."

After being hit by two pitches in his first two plate appearances, Damon left the series finale against the Twins with a contusion on his left hand.

Liriano hit Damon to lead off the game and hit him again to begin the third inning. Damon was hit on his left hand the second time, and it was noticeably swollen after the Rays' 12-5 victory.

"It's definitely a day-to-day thing," Rays manager Joe Maddon said Wednesday. "We'll reevaluate tomorrow. But for right now, there's a chance -- more than likely not tomorrow, but maybe the day after that, or Saturday -- that he'd be able to play."

Damon remained in the game to run the bases in the third, and the veteran designated hitter said he tried to ice his hand and keep the swelling down to stay in the game. Damon was replaced before he was due up in the fourth, as Sam Fuld batted for Damon and walked.

Now, Damon is just hoping the injury only lasts a couple days and doesn't keep him out until the All-Star break.

"I got lucky," Damon said. "One inch either way, it could be really bad."

Rays catcher Kelly Shoppach, who also was Damon's teammate in 2005 with the Red Sox, said he expects Damon back in the lineup sooner rather than later.

"He'll be in there [Thursday]," Shoppach said. "Come on, it's Johnny Damon -- 15 straight years, 140-plus games. It won't be long, if it's long at all.

"I watched this guy once run into the fence in Fenway, slit his eyelid, had to have stitches on his eyelid -- played the next day."

Pickoff becoming valuable weapon for Shields

MINNEAPOLIS -- With two pickoffs in Tuesday night's game, Rays right-hander James Shields increased his Major League-leading total to 10 on the year.


Shields is the first right-hander to record at least 10 pickoffs in a season since Jack McDowell had 13 for the White Sox in 1993. His 10 pickoffs also are the third-highest total for a right-hander since the stat was first recorded in 1974 -- behind McDowell and leader Charlie Hough, who had 16 in '88.

With nearly half a season remaining, Shields has an excellent chance to pass both McDowell and Hough.

"He works at it, he cares," Rays manager Joe Maddon said. "It's so hard to get pitchers to understand that you could really help yourself -- not only just by picking somebody off, [but also] by shortening leads -- by causing the other team to do something different because you are good at it. I don't think enough pitchers spend enough time doing it."

Shields' pickoffs came in big situations Wednesday as well, helping him minimize the damage done by the Twins' offense. In the first, Shields picked Alexi Casilla off at second base, ending the inning and limiting Minnesota to just one run in the frame.

In the fourth, Shields picked Rene Tosoni off first base for the second out of the inning. He then struck out Jason Repko for what essentially amounted to a double play.

"It's definitely high for me, I didn't expect to have 10 pickoffs for the year," Shields said. "But we're doing a great job with getting the right plays in the right situations. ... Pickoffs are always good as a pitcher. It saves you pitches, saves you maybe a couple runs."

Damon surprised by final out call Tuesday

MINNEAPOLIS -- As he hit first base in the ninth inning Tuesday night, Johnny Damon was sure he was safe. In fact, he was already thinking about the fact that he had brought the Rays' hottest hitter -- Ben Zobrist -- to the plate with the bases loaded.

Or so he thought.

Damon was shocked that he was called out, but what really surprised him was the way first-base umpire Gary Darling made the call -- very matter-of-fact, with no emotion.

"The umpire walked off like it wasn't even a close play, like I was going to get called out regardless," Damon said. "Normally on a bang-bang play, you've got to try to sell it. When there was no emotion, I thought for sure he was calling me safe. [The Twins' players] looked pretty stunned, too. The Twins were kind of laughing and saying they got one. And unfortunately for us, it happened to be in a key situation of the game."

Rays manager Joe Maddon said before Wednesday's game that he agreed Damon could have been safe.

Maddon also said he thought Darling had a good game Tuesday night as the first-base umpire.

"I thought he made a lot of good calls," Maddon said. "So the last play of the game -- that probably was the closest out of all the tough calls he had yesterday."

As for the emotion -- or lack of it -- Maddon was not surprised by that, either.

"[Darling] was the same way on the other three [close] plays," Maddon said. "If you look at the replays of the other three plays -- very matter-of-fact safe, very matter-of-fact safe, very matter-of-fact out."