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Loney grateful Rays called with offer

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Published:   |   Updated: March 13, 2013 at 04:59 PM
ST. PETERSBURG -

The Tampa Bay Rays weren't the only team to court James Loney this offseason, but Loney said he was glad the Rays were among the teams that called.

Pleased with their offer and eager to not let the search for a new team drag any longer, Loney accepted the Rays offer of one-year for $2 million plus another $1 in incentives.

"I always liked the way they played," said Loney, the Rays newest first baseman when asked why he decided on their offer. "They're always in the hunt, winning a lot of games every year, almost winning the World Series one year. So I like that aspect of it, and I also get the chance to play the majority of the time."

While the Rays would like to add a right-handed hitter who has some experience at first base, the left-handed hitting Loney will be the primary first baseman in 2013, rounding out an infield that includes Evan Longoria at third base, newly acquired Yunel Escobar at shortstop and the Ben Zobrist/Ryan Roberts platoon at second base.

"That's pretty attractive," Rays manager Joe Maddon said.

Loney is a Gold Glove-caliber defender who's offense has been somewhat of a puzzle to his former managers. Joe Torre, who managed Loney with the Los Angeles Dodgers, said the 28-year-old Loney has all the tools necessary to be more productive at the plate.

Maddon said that is often a symptom of a young hitter. Sometimes, Maddon said, a player needs to change teams a few times before he settles in a place where everything clicks.

It happened to former Rays first basemen Carlos Peña and Casey Kotchman. Both landed in Tampa Bay in their late-20s and both enjoyed their best offensive seasons.

Rays executive vice president of baseball Andrew Friedman said Loney doesn't have to hit for power to be successful. He just has to work good at-bats and continue to make contact.

Loney is a career .282 hitter. He hit .249 last season, including .230 in 106 at-bats with the Red Sox after he was the main piece sent from Los Angels to Boston in August during the blockbuster 11-player trade between the two teams.

Loney said there were a few things wrong with his swing last season. Mainly his timing was bit off.

To answer Torre's opinion that he has been inconsistent on offense throughout his career, Loney said, "Having good at-bats is the main thing."


rmooney@tampatrib.com (813) 259-7227 Twitter: @RMooneyTBO

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