PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. -- Count Evan Longoria among the position players who reported early to camp Tuesday.
After a season that saw him miss 85 games because of a partially torn left hamstring, Longoria had minor offseason surgery Nov. 21 to correct the problem. The Rays third baseman now appears eager to get going.
"[The surgery] was really a surprise to me," Longoria said. "Two weeks after, I was feeling like a new man. It was something I was really hesitant to do in the beginning. Any time you have to go under the knife and have them take something out or fix something, it's pretty nerve racking. I was a little bit nervous going into it. But the way that it's responded, the way that my workouts have gone after it, after the little procedure, I couldn't have been happier with doing it."
Staying healthy this season is of major concern to Longoria. Given the fact that Tampa Bay went 41-44 without him and 47-27 with him in the lineup in 2012, you can bet the Rays want nothing more than for the All-Star to be injury-free.
"I'd like to play every game, trust me; I try to play every game every year," Longoria said. "Just be healthy every year, every day. If I have to take a day off here or there to not go on the DL and not have to deal with that kind of stress or worry, I'll do it. But again, trying to avoid the DL will be the biggest thing for me."
To that end, Longoria said he has been running and testing his left hamstring "all I can."
"I really haven't been held back," Longoria said. "I might take a couple of steps back here in the first weeks of spring, as far as running bases and stuff, because that's really the only thing I haven't done. But honestly I don't anticipate any problems. It's felt really good."
Longoria and his girlfriend, Jaime Edmondson, are expecting a baby April 1, which, along with his signing a new contract and having surgery, has contributed to a busy offseason. The Rays open their season April 2 against the Orioles at Tropicana Field at 3:10 p.m. ET. Longoria smiled when asked if he would be playing in the opening game.
"I don't know; physically, yes," Longoria said. "But whenever that baby decides to come, she'll come. So we'll see."
Longoria and Edmondson know their baby is a girl, so the natural question had to be whether the couple planned to name her Eva.
"No, no, not Eva," Longoria chuckled.
Backup catcher Chirinos feeling fine
PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. -- Robinson Chirinos sustained a concussion last year during Spring Training and ended up missing the entire season. But the 28-year-old catcher is back and reported that "everything is fine."
"It's back to where it was before," Chirinos said. "…It's hard when you miss so much time. Now I feel good. My arm feels really good, my swing is really good. So everything is back."
Chirinos played in Venezuela during the winter to make sure all systems would be a go this spring.
"I went to play winter ball, so that means I'm ready to go," Chirinos said.
Chirinos experienced the first post-concussion shot, or test, to his head during an instructional league game in the fall.
"I was a little scared to get hit again," Chirinos said. "But I got hit and nothing happened."
Looking back, Chirinos remembered the worst part of his ordeal as not being able to sleep.
"I was sleeping like two or three hours a night," Chirinos said. "It was consistent every night. Finally they found a pill that would make me sleep, and it was better. I think when they find that pill and I was sleeping better, that's when I started feeling better, because it was hard going through the day without sleeping."
Chirinos said he wouldn't want anybody to have to go through what he experienced last summer.
"It's something really bad to go through," Chirinos said. "My family was there for me, and God was there, giving me the strength to get up every day. I kept believing I was getting better."
"I'm doing what I love again," Chirinos said.
Sixty-five players are the most the Rays have had in camp since 2003, when they began Spring Training with 73 players. Manager Joe Maddon and executive vice president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman attributed the high number to the fact the Rays are scheduled to play split-squad contests against the Pirates and Red Sox on Feb. 23, their first day of Grapefruit League competition. Normally, having a split-squad game on the schedule would not be a problem, as Minor Leagues can be brought in the help with the load -- particularly where pitching is concerned. But Tampa Bay's Minor Leaguers do not have their first workout until March 6. … Joel Peralta, who is scheduled to play for the Dominican Republic squad in the World Baseball Classic, is no longer sure if he will be able to do so. The Rays and Peralta want to make sure the right-hander is fresh for the season, so they will make a decision in the coming days regarding whether Peralta can get the right amount of work without overdoing it if he pitches in the Classic. … When asked about this season's lineup, Maddon mentioned that one of the top priorities will be to find the "best way to set up Longo." … Friedman noted that while he had been optimistic about the offensive potential of last season's team, he now believes this year's team can pass what last year's offense managed to achieve.
Bill Chastain is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.