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Rays happy that Loney finds new club in Padres

First baseman James Loney, shown during spring training before the Rays released him, expects to be part of the Padres’ lineup in the near future.

WILL VRAGOVIC | Times

First baseman James Loney, shown during spring training before the Rays released him, expects to be part of the Padres’ lineup in the near future.

BALTIMORE — When 1B James Loney was officially told last week there was no room for him on the Rays roster, he said he expected things to end up working out well for him.

That appears to be the case, as Loney, after being released with the Rays responsible for his $8 million salary, signed with San Diego, which just happens to be where he lives.

Technically, he signed a minor-league deal, but he is expected to be called up and become part of the Padres lineup in the relative near future.

"I feel great where I'm at now and so ecstatic to be able to play the game I love," Loney, 31, told the Tampa Bay Times. "I did not like missing opening day, but I am embracing this new journey I am on. I will go down there and play and let the Padres determine when they are ready to call me up."

After being released by the Rays on Sunday and clearing waivers Wednesday, Loney was free to sign with any team, and it would have to pay him only the prorated share of the $507,500 minimum salary, with the Rays covering the rest.

"I was looking for the most playing opportunities," Loney said. "So the dialogue the Padres conveyed to me was something I was comfortable with."

The Rays bumped the slick-fielding Loney, their starter the previous three seasons, out of a position by acquiring more offensive-oriented Logan Morrison and Steve Pearce to play first, and Corey Dickerson to DH.

Several players said Friday that they were glad to see he got a new gig. So was manager Kevin Cash.

"I'm very happy for J-Lo," Cash said. "That was a difficult decision for all of us. He's a big-league player, we all know that. He'll go there, and he'll help that club quite a bit. He has a veteran presence, and he's a guy that can hit."

GOING LONGO: Evan Longoria's first-inning blast extended the Rays' club-record streak to 19 straight games with a homer, longest by any team since the 2013 Mariners did 23. … It also was Longoria's seventh homer off Orioles RHP Chris Tillman, his most against any pitcher (CC Sabathia, six).

WELL-ARMED: As expected, Major League Baseball arranged for additional security to accompany the Rays after an incident in Bradenton stemming from their trip to Cuba.

Jim Previtera, one of their MLB resident security agents, who also serves as assistant St. Petersburg police chief, is on this trip, and there will be a presence on others. During a March 26 game in Bradenton, a man was arrested after running onto the field, screaming obscenities related to Cuba and throwing a can of beer into their dugout.

CHANGED UP: LHP Drew Smyly starts tonight, weather permitting, planning to continue making more use of his changeup after mostly positive feedback in his Monday season debut.

Smyly worked during the spring on gaining command of and confidence in the changeup, which he throws with a circle grip, saying, "I think I finally got it down." It gives him another option against right-handers, though he said it won't supplant his curve and slider as primary alternatives to his fastball.

"I think it can be a pretty good weapon for me," he said.

FAMILIAR FACES: Friday provided for two reunions. Pearce returned to Baltimore, where he played the previous three-plus seasons and was a favorite of Orioles manager Buck Showalter. And CF Joey Rickard, a Rule 5 draft pick by Baltimore, played against his former Rays minor-league teammates, going 2-for-4 while batting leadoff. He is 7-for-15 with hits in each of his first four big-league games.

MISCELLANY: The first-pitch temperature was announced at 50 degrees. … Morrison, after hitting into a first-inning double play on a ball he, and Cash initially, thought was foul and striking out, got his first Rays hit. SS Brad Miller was 0-for-4 and ran his season-opening hitless streak to 14 at-bats.

Rays happy that Loney finds new club in Padres 04/08/16 [Last modified: Saturday, April 9, 2016 12:07am]
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