ST. PETERSBURG — Luke Scott has made headlines for speaking out about his fervent religious and staunchly conservative political beliefs. The Rays are hoping he makes more noise swinging his bat.
Scott confirmed to the Tampa Bay Times on Wednesday that he agreed to a one-year deal with the Rays that includes a 2013 option. "I'm excited," he said. Terms were not available; the Rays are expected to announce the deal today.
Scott, 33, said he expects to be the Rays' primary DH and can also play first base and the corner outfield spots. He takes the place of Johnny Damon, who had hoped to return and said: "It's an unhappy day.'' The Rays are still pursuing a front-line first baseman, with 2011 starter Casey Kotchman a free agent.
Scott, who hits left-handed and throws right-handed, is coming off July surgery to repair a torn labrum in his right shoulder but said his recovery and rehab have gone well.
"There's no reason why I shouldn't be ready for opening day," he said.
When healthy, Scott can be an intriguingly productive offensive player, hitting .266 while averaging 25 homers for the Orioles over the 2008-10 seasons with a .348 on-base percentage and .845 OPS. His patience and power could make him a key part of the planned improvement to the Rays offense.
"He rakes!!" pitcher David Price posted on Twitter.
Scott said he may be limited to first base and DH early in the season as he continues to build arm strength to make throws from the outfield, but he expects to make a full recovery. "It's just going to take a little bit of time," he said.
Nearly a dozen teams were reported to be interested in Scott when the Orioles — after paying him $6.4 million for hitting .220 in 64 games last season — declined to tender him a contract and allowed him to become a free agent.
Scott said the Rays were the most aggressive of the teams. Combined with their chances for success, proximity to his offseason Central Florida home (DeLeon Springs) and some religious guidance, "it was an easy decision," he said. "It was about the pieces in place and their passion."
Damon wanted badly to stay after hitting .261 with 16 homers. "Didn't realize the DH and 1B brought the offense down,'' he texted. "Thought we would have had an offer.''
With the Orioles, Scott was popular with fans and his teammates, pitcher Jeremy Guthrie posting on Twitter, "Happy Trails Luke Scott. One of my fav teammates & ppl I've met in this great game of baseball."
But Scott could be polarizing with his political and religious views, most famously for his December 2010 comments that President Barack Obama was not born in the United States, which led the Orioles to issue a statement distancing themselves. Scott has also spoken out openly and repeatedly on gun rights, political conservatism and devout Christian beliefs.
Though his focus is on the field, he said Wednesday he will not shy away from saying how he feels, supporting "the principles our country is founded on."
• There has been progress toward a contract extension for manager Joe Maddon.
• Outfielder Matt Joyce agreed to the Rays' request to start working out at first base, but infield coach Tom Foley said the move is not the precursor to a position change, just an experiment to see if Joyce could be an in-game option. "We're just toying with an idea, in a pinch, can Joyce go over there," Foley said.
• Infielder Ryan Theriot remains of some interest as a reserve.
Around the nation
REDS SIGN CLOSER: Free agent closer Ryan Madson and Cincinnati reached an oral agreement on an $8.5 million, one-year contract, according to several media reports. The right-hander, 31, saved 32 games in 34 chances last year for the Phillies.
DODGERS SAGA: A bankruptcy judge in Delaware approved a settlement between the Dodgers and Fox Sports that clears the way for the sale of the team. The settlement, reached late Tuesday and quickly approved at a brief court hearing, ends a contentious legal battle between the ballclub and Fox.
LIKE FATHER … : Preston Mattingly, the 24-year-old son of former Yankees star and current Dodgers manager Don Mattingly, agreed to a minor-league contract with New York.
ANGELS: Injured first baseman Kendrys Morales agreed to a one-year contract worth $2,975,000, avoiding arbitration. Morales hasn't played since breaking his left ankle while jumping on home plate to celebrate a game-ending grand slam May 29, 2010.
ASTROS: Outfielder Fernando Martinez, 23, once one of the Mets' top prospects, was claimed off waivers.
CUBS: Right-handed reliever Kerry Wood, 34, was close to agreeing to a one-year deal, Fox Sports reported.
GIANTS: All-Star right-hander Ryan Vogelsong, 34, agreed to a two-year contract worth about $8.3 million.
METS: Outfielder Scott Hairston, 31, finalized a $1.1 million, one-year contract.
Information from Times wires was used in this report. Marc Topkin can be reached at [email protected] Follow his coverage on Twitter at @TBTimes_Rays.