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Loney's return keeps Rays defense strong

ST. PETERSBURG

Few were happier about the Rays' re-signing of 1B James Loney than his fellow infielders, including 3B Evan Longoria and 2B Ben Zobrist, who did their part to retain their security blanket.

"I talked to those two guys a little bit on text (message)," Loney, 29, said Friday, when his three-year, $21 million deal was officially announced. "We kind of texted back about winning and having the same guys back and how good that could be."

Loney, Zobrist, Longoria and SS Yunel Escobar were all Gold Glove finalists last season and big reasons for the team's defensive renaissance: They made 55 fewer errors than in 2012 and finished second in the majors in fielding percentage. The fact that none of the four won a Gold Glove was a surprise to many, especially Loney.

"The Gold Glove thing is really funny," he said. "They probably should do away with it because I don't think it's that accurate."

Loney said it'll be a lot of fun for the foursome to be together next season, though they'll have set a sparkling standard.

"They were a huge part of our success last year," executive vice president Andrew Friedman said of the infield. "We anticipate them being a huge part of our success next year. They're extremely gifted in all facets of the game. If you look at the offensive production, the defensive production, just the total game — we feel like we have one of the more productive infields in baseball. That's obviously a good thing and something we were highly motivated to try to keep together."

PRICE CHECK: Friedman said Friday the Rays wanted to "keep the band together," and their 2014 payroll projects to be a franchise record because "we felt like we had a really good chance to be great." That would seem to improve the chances of LHP David Price at least starting the season with Tampa Bay. For more, check out tampabay.com/blogs/rays/.

RAYS RUMBLINGS: Friedman said the club will continue to monitor the reliever market and "see if anything makes sense." RHP Fernando Rodney, the closer the past two seasons, is still a free agent, and the price would have to be right, but pitching coach Jim Hickey says he "wouldn't be surprised" if the former All-Star returns. … On the position player side, Friedman said the team could add another in a bench role. … Though the team claimed LH reliever Pedro Figueroa from the A's on Thursday, it's not official yet. … Free agent OF Sam Fuld is still open to returning.

Loney's return keeps Rays defense strong 01/04/14 [Last modified: Saturday, January 4, 2014 11:33pm]
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