ST. PETERSBURG — Whatever kind of start the Tampa Bay Rays get off to in the season's second half, they'll have to do it without C Ryan Hanigan. Hanigan's sore left oblique has finally earned him a spot on the 15-day disabled list.
Hanigan was placed on the DL retroactive to July 9, which means he could be back as soon as July 24, but manager Joe Maddon said he was unsure whether Hanigan would be ready by then.
“We just can't seem to get him going,'' Maddon said. “He started off so well, and then we lost him for a bit and then he came back and he just told me a couple days ago in Detroit how good he was feeling. But now he's got this happening again.''
The Rays promoted C Curt Casali (.237, 3 HRs, 15 RBIs for Triple-A Durham) to take Hanigan's place and moved OF Wil Myers to the 60-day DL to make room for Hanigan on the 15-day DL.
Casali impressed the Rays with his defense in spring training.
The Rays didn't just dig themselves into a hole during the first two months of the season. They dug themselves an abyss that could prove to be a grave.
They will, however, go back to the task of trying to crawl out of that gorge tonight knowing that such a climb is possible.
Since 1933, the year of the first All-Star game, five teams have worked their way back from the kind of 91⁄2-game deficit the Rays found themselves in at the start of the break and reached the postseason.
Only two teams — the 2006 Twins and 2007 Yankees — have done it in the last two decades, but the Rays have reason to believe they can be the third.
For starters, their 20-11 record since June 11 is tied with Baltimore for the best in the AL East in that span. Secondly, the Rays have a knack for playing some of their best baseball following the All-Star break.
Since 2010, the Rays own the majors' best combined record following the All-Star break with a 166-123 (.574) mark. It's no wonder, then, that the Rays remain confident they can pull of what many would consider a miracle.
“I believe we can do it,'' Maddon said, “but on a nightly basis we have to treat the game with even more respect, if that's possible, because we have very few mulligans, if any, left.
“We just have to keep playing the way we have over the last couple months, or the last couple weeks at least. If we can keep that same kind of vibe going, we can make some really loud noise.''
One Rays player who didn't make anywhere near the kind of noise that was expected of him the first half was 3B Evan Longoria, who finished the first half of the season hitting .257 with 11 homers and 44 RBIs.
Longoria said he believes his struggles are largely the result of trying to do too much to carry the team and that the remedy is to focus more on simply doing what he's capable of in every situation.
“Maybe some days I won't be seeing the pitcher that well, and so I can't expect to hit a couple of home runs and drive in five that day,'' he said. “But maybe I can make a play to save a run and draw a walk, steal a base and score a run. For me, that has to be the focus.''
Maddon believes Longoria can still provide the Rays with a lot of offensive production this year, and he says he won't hesitate to ask him to do it as the Rays try to work their way back into the pennant race.
“He is capable of carrying us for a while, and you're able to say that because he's able to handle that thought,'' Maddon said. “There are some guys who you would never even mention that.''
The All-Star break couldn't have come at a better time for LHP Jake McGee. McGee's wife Morgan gave birth to a daughter July 9, so the break gave him some extra time to play papa.
“It almost felt like the offseason for me,'' McGee said. “I had the three days off (while I was on the paternity list) and then the four days off (for the All-Star break), so it was awesome. I really enjoyed it.''