“He’s the best player here”.
That quote from catcher Jose Lobaton to Sam Strong of MLB.com pretty much sums up just how important — and untimely — Evan Longoria‘s latest absence might be for the Tampa Bay Rays. As though losing another game to fall seven games back of the division-leading Boston Red Sox wasn’t bad enough on Friday, the team also lost the heart of its offense after another flare-up of the plantar fasciitis in his right foot.
The injury caused Longoria to exit the game after the second inning, and though the team is going to take a day-to-day approach for now, it’s being done more to further evaluate how serious the condition is.
Now, numbers alone don’t truly illustrate the total impact of the 27-year-old’s absence, though they will certainly do a fine job here: Longoria is currently second on the team in batting average with a .298 BAA, but leads the Rays in virtually all other categories, including (but not limited to) OPS (.917), home runs (17) and RBI (47).
In short, he’s the cog that makes the Tampa Bay engine run, and needless to say, any significant time missed will do a number on the Rays’ hopes to stay in the race in a tightly-contested AL East.
That said, a couple of days off might not hurt too much either. Longoria had been dealing with the foot issue for most of the season, and although it hasn’t really stopped him from smashing at the plate overall, it did perhaps affect him more than most recently, as he’s hitting just .158/.385/.368 over the last week.
Perhaps the most frustrating thing for Rays fans here is that this is a story that they’ve seen play out before. The team’s star has been making an unwelcome habit of accumulating significant injuries over the last couple of seasons, missing 85 games in 2012 due to a hamstring ailment and 26 games from a strained oblique in 2011.
If Tampa Bay wants to avoid missing the postseason for the second year in a row, they’ll need Longoria to put an end to this unfortunate trend rather quickly — starting with this bout of plantar fasciitis.