Evan Longoria no longer is the 25-year-old MVP candidate and perennial All-Star. He's now 35 years old and in the twilight of his MLB career.
Nowadays, it takes a player of Longoria's age longer to recover from injuries, and it also takes time to find that game-action rhythm.
That was the case for the third baseman in his return to the Giants lineup Saturday against the Colorado Rockies at Oracle Park.
After missing more than two months with a shoulder sprain, and only playing in four rehab games with Triple-A Sacramento, Longoria was a bit off.
"Physically, I felt OK," Longoria told reporters on a video conference call after the Giants' 4-1 loss to the Rockies. Obviously happy to be back out there and it's definitely going to take a little bit longer for me to feel good and get back into the swing of things. But as far as timing goes, I felt I had definitely a couple pitches to hit that I felt like if I was midseason form, they might not go for base hits, but I feel like I should have hit them on the barrel. At the very least, there's some work to be done."
Longoria finished the game 1-for-4 with a single to right in the second inning and two strikeouts.
When asked by The San Francisco Chronicle's Susan Slusser to describe his only hit of the game, Longoria had a funny response.
"A single. A lucky single," Longoria said with a laugh.
Longoria said returning after just four rehab games felt like playing a regular season game after four spring training games. So naturally, his timing wouldn't be perfect. Manager Gabe Kapler noticed the issue, but also noted that the coaches have seen good signs when the veteran third baseman has been doing work behind closed doors.
"I don't think Longo was ... his timing was synced up particularly well," Kapler told reporters. "It's not surprising. It may take him a little bit of time to get into his rhythm. There's plenty of bat speed there. We've been seeing the power in his swings in the cage, so it's not a concern. He's going to need to knock some rust off. And that will shock no one."
Longoria joked that the Giants played well without him, but his long-anticipated activation off the Injured List means the offense is at full strength. With Longoria, Brandon Belt and Tommy La Stella all healthy, and Kris Bryant joining the group at the MLB trade deadline, Kapler has a full arsenal to pick and choose from.
Before the injury that was caused by a collision with shortstop Brandon Crawford, Longoria was hitting .280/.376/.516 with 11 doubles, nine homers and 30 RBI in 50 games. If he sustains the .892 OPS, it would be the second-highest of his career, behind his age-26 season.
The quicker Longoria can return to his pre-injury form, the better for the Giants.