TEX@TB: Longoria flashes the leather to rob a hit

ST. PETERSBURG -- Third baseman Evan Longoria was scratched from the starting lineup on Sunday because of flu-like symptoms.

He entered the game in the eighth inning to play third base but did not have an at-bat.

The Rays made the change about an hour before the first pitch; Longoria was initially listed at third base, batting fourth.

"Before the game, he was pretty ill," manager Joe Maddon said. "I did not want him out there dehydrated and pulling a muscle. That was not an option. He came down in the fifth inning and said he felt a lot better. It just did not work out for him to get in as a hitter."

Kelly Johnson played the first seven innings at third base and made an error on Brian Roberts' ground ball in the sixth.

Maddon is hopeful that Longoria will return to form on Monday.

"I think if he's able to eat a little bit and get a good night's rest, we should be fine, but I honestly don't know," he said. "We've had a little bit of a bug going around."

Longoria is batting just .130 with a .200 on-base percentage over his last five games, and he has just one homer over his last 26 games. He's hitting .263/.340/.485 with 29 homers and 77 RBIs on the season.

Zobrist's defense setting gold standard for Rays

BAL@TB: Zobrist retires Jones with barehanded play

ST. PETERSBURG -- Second baseman Ben Zobrist has acquired quite a collection of gold-star plays during the current homestand, including a few diving stops and a barehanded play on a ball that ricocheted off Alex Cobb's glove on Saturday.

If Zobrist is able to maintain his .992 fielding percentage, it would break a team record for second basemen.

Not surprisingly, manager Joe Maddon sees Zobrist's defense this season as some of the best of his eight-year career.

Maddon did acknowledge, though, that Zobrist's Gold Glove chances may be hindered by his versatility. Zobrist started 25 games in the outfield and eight at shortstop, but since Wil Myers' June promotion, which solidified right field, Zobrist has been able to settle in at second.

"He probably won't be as seriously considered as [Boston's Dustin] Pedroia or [New York's Robinson] Cano," Maddon said. "It's difficult for him to break through, but what he's done this year ... I don't know how well they've played, but it's hard to imagine they've played it better."

Rays call up right-hander Martin from Triple-A

ST. PETERSBURG -- Just as J.D. Martin was getting ready to relax and kick off the offseason in Louisiana, he got a call from a team official.

A three-hour drive to and a flight from Houston later, Martin was at Tropicana Field, Tampa Bay's newest right-handed reliever, wearing No. 24

Martin went 16-4 with a 2.75 ERA in 160 1/3 innings (27 starts) for Triple-A Durham this season, and was named the International League's Most Valuable Pitcher.

"Any time you're throwing well, you're hopeful to get that opportunity," Martin said. "I just waited it out, and fortunately, something happened. It's nice to be here."

The 30-year-old has made 24 Major League starts, all for Washington in 2009 and 2010, going 6-9 with a 4.32 ERA. The 35th overall pick in the 2001 First-Year Player Draft has gone 88-53 with a 3.64 ERA over 13 Minor League seasons in the Indians, Nationals, Marlins and Rays organizations.

Given Martin's experience as a starter, manager Joe Maddon foresees using him in multiple-inning scenarios.

"We just wanted to make sure we're protected all the way around," Maddon said. "We've used our bullpen a lot. The part that scared us the most would be a lengthy situation. We thought it would be wise to have him here."

The Rays cleared a spot on the 40-man roster on Saturday by trading left-hander Frank De Los Santos to the White Sox for cash or a player to be named.

Maddon no fan of one-and-done format

9/21/13: Cobb completely brillant in gem over Orioles

ST. PETERSBURG -- With winning the American League East no longer an option, the Rays must fight their way into the postseason through the one-game Wild Card playoff.

Manager Joe Maddon has made it clear that he is not a fan of the one-and-done format.

"If you make the playoffs, you should get at least two out of three," Maddon said. "There's a difference between a one-game playoff if you finish the season in a tie and then the playoffs."

But many fear that a three-game Wild Card series would give division winners too much time off, something Maddon said could be addressed through doubleheaders.

"If that's a big concern, you could suck it up," he said. "I'm not into that expeditious mode. I've never been into making this thing happen more quickly, whether it's the game or the season. Including more doubleheaders in the season would shorten the number of days, and then you could fill it up at the end. There are creative ways to get that done in order to keep everybody happy and make it slightly more fair."

Worth noting

• The Rays are expected to activate reliever Jesse Crain (strained right shoulder) from the 60-day disabled list on Monday, and Maddon said Crain would be available to pitch in the series finale against the Orioles. Acquired from the White Sox prior to the July 31 nonwaiver Trade Deadline, Crain hasn't pitched since June 29.

"It's a great relief," Maddon said, crediting the work of Crain and head athletic trainer Ron Porterfield.

Tampa Bay will have to clear a spot on its 40-man roster for Crain, most likely removing a pitcher.

• Loney could get a day off on Monday against Orioles left-hander Wei-Yin Chen. Maddon has been looking for opportunities during the stretch run to sit such regulars as Loney, Longoria, Zobrist and Yunel Escobar, and this would appear to be the best time to rest Loney and start Sean Rodriguez.

• Enny Romero, who made his Major League debut on Sunday, is the Rays' 10th starter this season, their most since 2006, when they used 12. Since 2008, however, the Rays have used only 20 starters, three fewer than any other club. The Orioles and Padres have used the most starters during that span, with 44 each.

• Tampa Bay's pitching staff leads the AL with a .241 opponents' batting average. If the Rays hold their lead -- the A's are at .243 -- it will be the fourth straight season they've led the AL in that category. The last team to do so was the 1982-85 Tigers.

• Here's another way to put in perspective the Rays' 18-inning marathon on Friday night and the quick turnaround on Saturday: They played nearly 10 hours of baseball (nine hours, 45 minutes) and 27 innings in a span of less than 20 hours.

• Due to programming conflicts, Sunday's and Monday's radio broadcasts will be simulcast on 98 Rock (97.9 FM) and WHNZ 1250 AM. In other programming news, MLB Network has selected the Rays-Yankees game on Tuesday as its primary game, and ESPN has selected Wednesday's Rays-Yankees game.