Sunday, January 21, 2018
Tampa Bay Rays

Rays expect James Loney to return to form

NASHVILLE — Coming off a career-worst season, there are a lot of things 1B James Loney can do to improve.

But Rays officials say they'll be quite happy if he just gets back to what he used to do, working counts, hitting line drives rather than trying for homers and showing his dazzling glove.

"He's a hitter first, power second, and we're fine with that," executive VP Andrew Friedman said of Loney, 28, whose one-year, $2 million signing became official Thursday. "We think if he stays with that approach that it will be a very additive offensive piece with the profile and the contact and different things that he does.

"And you layer on the defense on top of it and we feel like he's going to help us win games."

Between the Dodgers and Red Sox last season, Loney hit .249 with six homers, 41 RBIs and a .293 on-base percentage. Over the previous five seasons, he hit .288, averaged 13 homers and 80 RBIs with a .346 on-base percentage.

"James is a guy that's been on our radar for years," Friedman said. "We feel like there is real significant upside from surface line last year."

RULED OUT: The Rays lost a pair of left-handed starters in the Rule 5 draft: Kyle Lobstein, their 2008 second-round pick, taken by the Mets and then sent to the Tigers; and Braulio Lara, taken in the second round by the Marlins. They have a good chance to get both back, however, as draft rules require selected players to be kept in the majors the full season or offered back to their team.

Neither would seem ready, though Lobstein, despite not yet getting past Double A, has a better chance to make it than Lara, a hard-thrower who had a 5.71 ERA at advanced Class A Charlotte.

In the Triple-A phase, the Giants took RHP Scott Shuman, a hard-throwing reliever who had an 8.83 ERA with 54 strikeouts and 47 walks in 34⅔ innings for the Rays' Double-A Montgomery team.

"We have a lot of pitching in our organization. We fairly evaluate this, and sometimes you might lose a player," farm director Mitch Lukevics said. "It's great in a sense, bittersweet more or less. We want to try and protect everybody that we have, but we can't."

RAYS matters: In their search for power, the Rays are one of several teams interested in OF/DH Raul Ibanez, according to WFAN-AM in New York. … OF Jason Bourgeois, who has big-league time with the Astros and Royals among others, was signed to a minor-league deal. The 30-year-old has a career .261 average and .630 on-base plus slugging percentage over five seasons. … Manager Joe Maddon hosts a fundraiser for his Thanksmas dinner program tonight at Tampa's 717 South restaurant (717 S Howard Ave.). Donation info is on joesthanksmas.com.

REVERE TO PHILS, MORE: The Phillies found their centerfielder in acquiring Ben Revere from the Twins for pitchers Vance Worley and Trevor May. … Though SS Derek Jeter's left ankle was still in a walking boot, he vowed to be in the Yankees' opening day lineup. The club made a one-year, $12 million offer to INF Kevin Youkilis, 33, who is also sought by the Indians. … The Rangers are discussing a deal that would send DH Michael Young, 36, to the Phillies for bullpen help or prospects, ESPN reported. Young must approve any deal. … Reliever Koji Uehara, 37, agreed to a one-year deal with Boston. … 1B Brandon Allen, who played briefly with the Rays last season, signed a minor-league deal with Texas. … The Mariners remain serious bidders for OF Josh Hamilton. … The Reds have an offer out to OF Ryan Ludwick. … The Twins agreed to terms with reliever Jared Burton on a two-year, $5.5 million deal. … Reed Johnson, the top NL pinch hitter, rejoined the Braves with a one-year deal.

Information from Times wires contributed to this report.

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