(ST. PETERSBURG, Fla.) -- Even with a healthy Evan Longoria and Carl Crawford, the Tampa Bay Rays will be challenged to stay atop the AL East with Boston and New York breathing down their necks.
Without them, help will have to come from every corner of the clubhouse.
Rookie All-Star 3rd baseman Longoria joined Crawford on the 15-day disabled list after a pitch from Seattle closer J.J. Putz fractured his right wrist.
The Rays, who set a franchise record for victories in a season with their 71st, began Monday with a 4½-game lead over 2nd-place Boston.
Crawford, a four-time AL stolen base champion batting .273 with 57 RBIs and 25 steals, went on the DL with a right hand injury on Sunday. There's been speculation that he could face season-ending surgery.
Crawford, batting .349 with five triples during an 11-game hitting streak, was injured during his final at-bat on Saturday.
Longoria's move is retroactive to Friday. The Rays remain hopeful that he will be able to return to the lineup within 2-3 weeks.
The Rays recalled former Montgomery Biscuit outfielder Justin Ruggiano from Class AAA-Durham (Int'l.) to fill the roster opening. Willy Aybar takes over as the regular 3rd baseman. Ruggiano figures to share playing time in left field with Eric Hinske and Gabe Gross .
Longoria, who began the season in the minors, is hitting .278 with a Rays rookie-record 22 home runs and 71 RBIs. He also leads AL third basemen with a .971 fielding percentage and had not missed a game since joining the Rays on April 12 from Durham.
Ruggiano will begin his fourth stint with the Rays this season when the team opens a three-game series at Oakland on Tuesday night. In 15 games, he has batted .290 with one home run and two RBIs while playing all three outfield positions.
Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.