PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. -- Evan Longoria continues to take the cautious approach as far as the recovery from his right hand injury is concerned.
He's taking "dry" swings -- which translates to simply swinging the bat -- but he is holding off on making the progression to live games from there. That progression will see him eventually advance to hitting the ball off a tee, then hitting flip tosses, and, ultimately, taking live batting practice before playing in a game.
"I've always been a better game player than practice [player]," Longoria said. "There's definitely a gear shift when I get into the games. So I want to see that part of it. I want to get back into actual competition, instead of just taking batting practice and ground balls. It's very different."
While it is taking more time than originally expected for Longoria to get back into action, the Rays' All-Star third baseman does not view his injury as a setback.
"Obviously, I wouldn't wish it upon anybody, and I wouldn't want it to happen again. But like I said in the beginning, it's part of the game," Longoria said. "Thankfully, we're not in the beginning of April, the beginning of the season, like we were last year. Get it right, now. It's not really a setback.
"I've been working out baseball-wise for a month and a half now. Had this been the same time and I hadn't done anything, it might have been a setback, because now I'm waiting another week to get back out there and work out. It's just part of it, and I'm excited to get back when I can. I'm going to try and push every day, and see what I can do."
Longoria wants to have the problem completely cleared up before making his return, but he doesn't believe his return will be delayed much longer.
"I feel like once I get in there and start hitting again, it's going to be pretty quick for when I get back in [action]," Longoria said.
Shields set for debut and end of Rays' streak
PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. -- James Shields will make his first start of the spring on Wednesday in Tampa against the Yankees. Last spring, the right-hander reported to camp after enduring a difficult ending to his 2010 season.
Among the things he did after reporting was to have his meeting with Rays manager Joe Maddon and team coaches -- every player in camp has such a meeting. After his '10 season, Shields took time to evaluate what he had done right, what he had done wrong and what he wanted to accomplish during the coming season.
"There was just that one thing that was missing -- and that was complete games, finishing games off," Shields said. "I didn't do it since 2008, and that was one of the things that was really, really missing in any one of my seasons. As a starting pitcher, it really felt good to finish games off. ... I told Joe, 'Listen, man, this is the one year that I really want to finish a game off -- whether it's one or 11,' and that's the mentality I had. And Joe obviously allowed me to do that."
The rest is history. Shields twirled an amazing 11 complete games, while re-establishing himself as one of the top pitchers in the American League.
Entering this season, the Rays' starters have a streak that's still alive but soon to be broken.
The Rays have started a pitcher under the age of 30 for their last 764 games -- a modern Major League record, one previously held by the 1913-17 Washington Senators. Hall of Famer Walter Johnson was on that team that established the record at 704 starts. Jae Seo made the last start by a Rays pitcher 30 or older, when he made a start on his 30th birthday on May 24, 2007, against the Mariners. Prior to that day, the Rays had not started a pitcher 30 or over since 32-year-old Mark Hendrickson on June 25, 2006, against the Braves.
Alas, Shields turned 30 in December, so the streak will come to an end at the beginning of the season. But he will endure plenty of good-natured teasing until the streak is actually broken. The prospect of pushing him back in the rotation so the streak can be extended as long as possible has been one of the scenarios discussed in jest.
"Yeah, I told Andrew [Friedman, executive vice president of baseball operations] to push him back a start to make sure we can extend the streak a few more days," said David Price.
Added pitching coach Jim Hickey: "We're going to talk about [pushing him back]. He's not too happy about that. But we've already discussed having him at No. 5 and, actually with the day off, we might be able to skip him the first time. We might be able to squeeze seven or eight starts out before we get to him."
Three acts highlight Rays' concert series
PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. -- The Rays' 2012 Summer Concert Series will feature three chart-topping performers -- Rock and Roll Hall of Famers ZZ Top, 3 Doors Down and Gretchen Wilson -- during a postgame concert at Tropicana Field following the Rays-Marlins game on June 17 at 1:40 p.m. ET.
The concerts are free with the purchase of that date's game ticket. The remaining concert dates will be announced later this month.
Full-season ticket holders who purchased all 81 games in the Avantair Home Plate Club, Hancock Bank Club, Fieldside Box, Lower Infield Box or Lower Box locations will receive wristbands for special on-field access to this postgame event.
Brandon Gomes said he felt fine on Tuesday morning after throwing to hitters for the first time this spring. Gomes had minor back surgery during the offseason and feels like the procedure will translate to less soreness after outings. So far, so good for the 27-year-old right-hander.
Maddon on J.P. Howell regaining his confidence: "Whatever was on the back of his mind last year regarding throwing a baseball, I'm sure it's not there anymore. When you are away from the game as long as he was, there are adjustments to be [made] when you come back. I think he's very happy to get this all in the rearview mirror."
Roberto Hernandez is in camp for a few days. The former Rays closer was around during much of the 2011 season and has mixed well with the players, dispatching his wisdom when called upon.
Sam Fuld (right wrist) felt fine on Tuesday after taking batting practice Monday. He expects to see game action by Friday.
Bill Chastain is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.