Notes: Longoria moves up to Triple-A
Top pick in '06 making strides; Wheeler, Balfour shore up 'pen
ST. PETERSBURG -- Evan Longoria is wasting no time.
Longoria, the Rays' top pick of the 2006 First-Year Player Draft, has put himself on a fast track to success and in his most recent move was promoted to Triple-A Durham after Tuesday night's game.
He was to join the Bulls on Wednesday for a game against Columbus.
The 21-year-old third baseman dominated the Southern League before his promotion, and left with league leads in RBIs (76) and runs scored (76). He also had the second-highest hits total (117) and was third-best in slugging percentage (.528), fifth in on-base percentage (.403) and seventh in batting average (.307) during his time at Double-A Montgomery.
Longoria also led the Biscuits with 51 walks.
Rays manager Joe Maddon was pleased to learn of the news, although he reiterated he has nothing to do with the promotions in the farm leagues.
"He had a great year as a Devil Ray, that's for sure," Maddon said of Longoria. "That's incredible. That's just a natural progression; good for him."
Longoria made sure he went out with a bang too, hitting his first career grand slam on Tuesday night during his last at-bat during the Biscuits' win.
What a relief: Tuesday came and went without a trade but the Rays had already gone a long way toward solving their bullpen woes with the acquisitions of Dan Wheeler and Grant Balfour earlier in the week. The duo, combined with Gary Glover and Al Reyes, who's already established himself in the late innings, may now make up for the fact that Tampa Bay doesn't have one go-to guy.
"You can always look to have the one you consider the one, the absolute hammer, whatever you want to call it," Maddon said. "I just think when you're looking at the way these four people have been able to work together, they actually strengthen one another."
With a 4.38 ERA and 17 saves in 18 chances, Reyes has come the closest to filling the role of door-slammer in the ninth. But even so, Reyes is 37 years old and missed the 2006 season after offseason Tommy John surgery, so it's nice to have a backup plan.
"[Reyes] has pretty much done the closer's kind of work, and he's been very consistent with it," Maddon said. "But I believe that by having that support system there, where people know that they can rely on each other in a sense ... I think they can be bolstered by this also.
"It'd be nice to have that guy, but I think they all seem to have the makeup where it doesn't bother them."
Here's the question: Delmon Young's .343 July batting average (36-for-105) was tops among all American League rookies, and third-best in Rays history among rookies. Can you name the two players who topped him?
Quick hits: The Rays will host Hall of Fame Night on Saturday, and welcome pitcher Jim Palmer to sign autographs in Centerfield Street from 5:10-6:10 p.m. ET. The first 10,000 fans will also receive a Scott Kazmir game-used jersey card. ... The Rays wives will host their annual Back to School supplies drive on Friday and Saturday. The drive benefits foster children from the Safe Children Coalition. ... Tampa Bay finished July with a 7-20 record, tied with the 2002 season for the worst July in club history and just one loss shy of their all-time record for most losses in a month (June 2003). Good news, though: With a .432 win percentage, August has historically been the Rays' best month.
Down on the farm: J.P. Howell worked seven shutout innings and fanned a career-high 12 at Triple-A Durham and then stood by and watched as the Bulls' bullpen lost the game during a 5-3 loss to the Indians. ... Double-A Montgomery won its second straight, 6-2 over the Barons, behind Derek Feldkamp, Nick Debarr and Brian Henderson's five combined scoreless innings. ... First baseman Rhyne Hughes and third baseman Aaron Sisk each were promoted to Montgomery following Class A Vero Beach's rainout.
And the answer is: Young's hot-hitting July was topped in Rays history only by Randy Winn, who hit .365 in July 1998, and Rocco Baldelli (.364 in April 2003). In addition, Young's 36-hit month was topped only by Baldelli among Tampa Bay rookies. Baldelli had 40 hits in April 2003.
Up next: The Rays will take Thursday off before welcoming the Orioles to Tropicana Field for a three-game series beginning Friday. Tampa Bay will send right-hander James Shields (8-6, 4.47 ERA) to the mound, where he'll face righty Daniel Cabrera (7-11, 5.08). First pitch is set for 7:10 p.m. ET.
Dawn Klemish is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.