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.

Indians place Andrew Miller on 10-day disabled list with knee inflammation

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It’s been one issue after the next for Indians reliever Andrew Miller, and on Saturday, the left-hander landed back on the 10-day disabled list with right knee inflammation. According to comments made by club manager Terry Francona, Miller’s knee has been a problem since the start of the year. The team has yet to determine a concrete timetable for his return to the bullpen.

Miller, 33, hasn’t looked like his usual sub-2.00 ERA, 2.0+ fWAR self this season, though he paired a 4.40 ERA and 6.3 BB/9 with an impressive 14.4 SO/9 across his first 14 1/3 innings. A left hamstring strain and minor back injury hampered his effectiveness on the mound, though this appears to be a more serious issue — especially given the five weeks he spent recovering from a tendon injury in his right knee last year.

In corresponding moves, the Indians designated right-hander Oliver Drake for assignment and recalled Triple-A right-handers Ben Taylor and Evan Marshall. Taylor, 25, was working on a 3.63 ERA, 1.0 BB/9 and 11.4 SO/9 through 17 1/3 innings in Triple-A Columbus, while 28-year-old Marshall turned in a terrific 0.77 ERA, 0.8 BB/9 and 6.9 SO/9 over his first 11 2/3 innings. Neither reliever has pitched more than a handful of innings at the big league level in 2018.