ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- Even with a healthy Evan Longoria and Carl Crawford, the Tampa Bay Rays knew it would be a challenge to stay atop the AL East. Without them, help will have to come from every corner of the clubhouse.
"You go around and there's been a lot of guys who have helped us get to this point, some with limited playing time," executive vice president of baseball operation Andrew Friedman said Monday after rookie All-Star third baseman Longoria joined Crawford on the 15-day disabled list because of a right wrist fracture.
"A few of these guys is going to get more at-bats and more playing time, and we have confidence they will help keep us in the position that we're in today."
The Rays, who set a franchise record for victories in a season with their 71st, began Monday with a 4½-game lead over second-place Boston.
But with Longoria and two-time All-Star Crawford sidelined, they face the challenge of trying to stay ahead of the Red Sox and third-place New York Yankees without two of their best offensive and defensive players.
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, though Friedman stressed he didn't want speak prematurely about the outfielder.
"We're still seeking medical opinions to come up with the best course of action," Friedman said. "We probably won't have anything definitive until [Tuesday]."
Crawford, batting .349 with five triples during an 11-game hitting streak, was injured during his final at-bat on Saturday.
"Obviously it's a tough situation, but this team has shown great perseverance all year and I expect it will continue," Friedman said.
"We'll continue to monitor the waiver wire, but this underscores the emphasis that we've placed on depth. We haven't gotten to this point on the back of any one player. It's been a team effort all year, and I expect that to continue."
The move with Longoria was retroactive to Friday, the day after the 22-year-old was hit by a pitch from Seattle closer J.J. Putz. He the past three games and took a red-eye flight home to St. Petersburg early Monday to be examined by a team doctor.
Friedman said the club initially believed a previous fracture that had not been detected might be the source of some of Longoria's discomfort. While the latest tests revealed it was a new fracture, the Rays remain hopeful that he will be able to return to the lineup within two to three weeks.
"It's non-displaced, which is good news. As we're looking at it now, we don't think it will be too long after that two-week period," Friedman said. "Whether it's three weeks, or a little bit sooner than that, or a little bit later, I'm not sure."
The team recalled outfielder Justin Ruggiano from Triple-A Durham to fill the roster opening.
"Different things create opportunities. You can reflect on the negative part or on the positive of giving these guys opportunities to help this team further our lead in the standings," Friedman said. "That's the way we're going to look at it. It doesn't do any good to dwell on the other side."
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 Triple-A Durham.
The youngest Rays position player ever to make the All-Star team, Longoria was the third pick in the 2006 baseball draft.
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.