After spending nearly three weeks on the injured list with a plantar fascia strain in his left foot, Evan Longoria returned to the Giants lineup on Sunday at Coors Field.
The third baseman went 1-for-4 with a single and hit three balls hard against the Rockies in his return, but then Longoria sat out Monday’s tilt, the opener to a three-game set against the Nationals. The Giants lost 4-0.
Longoria has dealt with plantar fasciitis at various points during his career, but the pain became so overwhelming during the Giants’ July 14 victory over the Brewers that he needed to come off the field in the middle of the game.
Longoria still expects to deal with some general foot soreness in the coming weeks, but he acknowledged the Giants may have the benefit of mixing in a few extra rest days for him thanks to the presence of Pablo Sandoval. Sandoval played third base on a near-daily basis during Longoria’s stint on the injured list and took over the team lead in home runs with 14.
“Obviously we have Pablo and Pablo’s been playing well,” Longoria said. “There’s no real need for me to go out and play 10 in a row right now. I think it’s just going to be a day-to-day thing depending on how I feel and also trying to find a lineup that can win.”
Manager Bruce Bochy gave Sandoval a day off Sunday to rest and recover from a physically taxing stretch of games, but Bochy indicated the switch-hitter will still play regularly over the team’s final 50 games.
On days the Giants feel Longoria needs to stay off his feet, Sandoval is a capable replacement. On days the Giants face left-handed pitchers, Sandoval could wind up spelling Brandon Belt more often at first base.
Because Sandoval has hit so well from the right side lately, Bochy also feels he can double switch with Sandoval in the middle innings or sub him in earlier in games if the Giants prefer a particular matchup.
Regardless of how often Longoria can play down the stretch, it’s clear the Giants missed the length he adds to their lineup. Bochy expressed excitement on Saturday about adding Longoria and outfielder Alex Dickerson (right oblique strain) to the roster in the coming days, but the Giants have been careful not to rush either player off the injured list.
When position players return from absences of more than two weeks, they often go down to the minor leagues for short rehab assignments to work on their timing and find a rhythm with their swing. Despite missing 20 days due to his foot injury, Longoria traveled with the Giants on their three-city road trip and didn’t play in any rehab games before his return.
The Giants discussed a potential rehab assignment with Longoria, but the third baseman successfully shot down the idea with a sound argument. Longoria reasoned that he has no familiarity with minor league pitchers, has suffered from poor results in past rehab assignments and felt he would have an easier time acclimating to games against a team the Giants see 19 times a year.
“They were pretty responsive and I guess I should thank them for that,” Longoria said. “I know that it’s probably a lot for them to trust a guy, but I’ve been around quite awhile now and so for them to trust me that I was ready and I could go out and play and be effective, I definitely appreciated that.”
The results Sunday were encouraging for Longoria, who hit two balls harder than 100 mph and looked comfortable after a second-inning strikeout. He acknowledged it will take a few additional days before he has the chance to find a groove at the plate, but he believes in his ability to think along with pitchers as they work through an at-bat.
“I felt pretty confident that even if my timing was a little bit off, that I’d be able to kind of just battle my way through the game,” Longoria said. “To pick situations and just guess pitches and get myself on time just by knowing in certain situations what a guy may throw me.”