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Rays seek more offense even after signing Scott

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Published:   |   Updated: March 19, 2013 at 11:10 AM
ST. PETERSBURG -

The addition of Luke Scott gives the Tampa Bay Rays a left-handed power bat, one they feel comfortable with in matchups against left-handed pitching. It does not, however, mean the Rays have landed a full-time designated hitter.

Nor does it mean the Rays have centered their search on a full-time first baseman.

Rays executive vice president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman said Thursday his options are open as he continues to find more offense.

"We're just looking for a bat. We like to have options. We like to be as flexible as we can be. We don't want to pigeon hole ourselves into any one area if we can avoid it, just because it expands the applicant pool," Friedman said. "We're just going through a long list of names right now and trying to figure out how we can line up on the best player that we can when factoring offense, fit with our offensive unit, defense and the net result."

The Rays signed Scott this week to a one-year deal worth $5 million, with a club option for 2013 that calls for a $6 million salary or a $1 million buyout. The former Oriole can reach performance bonuses both seasons based on plate appearances.

Friedman said he has been interested in Scott for several years. Scott, 33, can play both corner outfield positions as well as first base. He also has experience as a designated hitter.

"One thing we really like is obviously his success against right-handed pitchers, but also his ability to handle left-handers and not need an extra (roster) spot to help protect that," Friedman said.

Scott is a lifetime .271 hitter against right-handers with 82 home runs, a .357 on-base percentage and a .501 slugging percentage. Against lefties, those numbers are .240, 30, .318 and .469.

Scott missed the final two months of the 2011 season after having surgery in late July to repair a torn labrum in his right shoulder. He said the shoulder will be healthy enough by Opening Day to allow him to hit and play first base, but he doesn't think he can return to the outfield until May or June.

Also, Scott said Thursday he is not ready for life as a fulltime DH.

"I'm comfortable playing any one of those three positions," Scott said. "Do I like playing defense? Yes, I take pride in my defense. It's something I enjoy. It's a part of the game that's important to me."

That Scott can play first base opens the possibilities for the Rays. Friedman can add another player with experience at first base, who can also be the DH. Or, he can find a fulltime DH and move Scott around the field.

Matt Joyce and Reid Brignac are taking ground balls at first base this offseason, but that is seen as a chance for both players to provide more late-inning flexibility to the roster.

When asked if the Rays can find a first baseman from their current roster — Ben Zobrist and Sean Rodriguez have started games at first for the Rays — Friedman said, "It depends what else we get. There's just a lot of ways we can go. If we add Player X, what's the implication for the rest of our guys and how everything fits together, if something makes it more difficult to field a better team than something else?"

Whether the next addition comes through free agency or trade depends, Friedman said, on how much a free agent will cost vs. the player the Rays would have to give up in a trade.

With Scott signed, the Rays have now committed $32.61 million to the 2012 payroll. That number does not include the salaries received by the arbitration-eligible players, most notably B.J. Upton and David Price, or the raises due the rest of the players under team control.

When asked if payroll constraints will be an issue, Friedman said, "We don't have that hard and fast (payroll) number. We're probably beyond what we kind of thought we'd be, but that's the benefit of not working with a hard and fast number. Numerous years are intertwined in our decision-making process."


rmooney@tampatrib.com (813) 259-7227

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