The revival of James Loney

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First baseman James Loney had two hits this afternoon, including a solo home run in the eighth inning, as his Rays went on to defeat the Padres in the series finale 4-2. Loney entered the day as one of the best hitters in the American League with a .371/.426/.533 line, a welcome sight for the Rays who picked him up on a one-year, $2 million deal back in December.

After breaking out in 2006 and ’07 with the Dodgers, posting an aggregate .915 OPS in 486 plate appearances, Loney endured hardships as he failed to live up to expectations. From 2008-12, he slugged under .400 with an OPS under the league average. The Dodgers rid themselves of him in the mega-deal that brought Carl Crawford, Adrian Gonzalez, Josh Beckett, and Nick Punto to Chavez Ravine.

So what’s gotten into Loney? He’s hitting for more power than he has in the last five years despite the meager three home runs and is walking nearly as much as he is striking out (10 to 12 in 120 PA), something he hasn’t done since 2009.

At the end of April, Tommy Rancel of ESPN’s Rays blog The Process Report noted that Loney has added a leg kick which was certainly evident in his home run this afternoon, and that may be the mechanical explanation for his success. The pitches Loney used to roll over for weak grounders are now being hit with authority for line drives and deep fly balls. Not a bad bargain bin grab for the Rays, who seem to make a habit out of this.

Report: Red Sox expected to announce J.D. Martinez signing on Monday

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Tomorrow will mark a week since the Red Sox reportedly inked outfielder J.D. Martinez to a five-year, $110 million contract. The signing hasn’t been made official yet, however, due to an apparent medical issue. That will change tomorrow morning as the Red Sox have a press conference scheduled with Martinez where they’re expected to announce the signing at long last, Evan Drellich of NBC Sports Boston reports.

According to Jon Heyman of FanRag Sports, the terms of the deal aren’t expected to change. Presumably, the Red Sox had some safeguards put into the contract to protect them against whatever spooked them with the results of Martinez’s physical.

Martinez, 30, was the top free agent hitter after batting .303/.376/.690 with 45 home runs and 104 RBI in 489 plate appearances last season with the Tigers and Diamondbacks. He has expressed an interest in continuing to play in the outfield, but MLB.com’s Ian Browne says he will get a majority of his playing time as a DH with the Red Sox. Hanley Ramirez will share first base with Mitch Moreland.