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.

Yankees set to activate Giancarlo Stanton on Tuesday

Giancarlo Stanton
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Yankees slugger Giancarlo Stanton is set to return from the injured list on Tuesday, manager Aaron Boone told reporters on Sunday. The timing coincides well with the addition of Edwin Encarnación, who was acquired from the Mariners on Saturday evening and is expected to be active and available for the Yankees as soon as Monday night.

The Yankees have every reason to hope that Stanton will be able to return to his usual 30+ homer, 4.0+ fWAR self as he works his way back to a full-time role this season. (Fueling some of that hope: Four home runs in 10 PA at High-A Tampa during his latest stretch of rehab games.) Undoubtedly, they’re still prepared to play it safe with the 29-year-old, who has already suffered significant shoulder, biceps, and calf injuries and has not appeared in a major-league game since March 31. Through the Yankees’ first three games of 2019, he went 2-for-15 with a pair of singles, seven walks, and four strikeouts.

With Encarnación slotting into a DH/first base role, Stanton is expected to spend the bulk of his playing time in the left field corner. That may cause a bit of a logjam in the outfield, as Brett Gardner took over that spot in Stanton’s absence and will likely be forced into a backup role once Aaron Judge returns from the IL — but for now, Boone says, he “still expects Gardy to play a lot.”