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’ Kluber has cast removed, making progress

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CLEVELAND (AP) Indians ace Corey Kluber had the hard cast protecting his broken right arm removed and the two-time Cy Young winner is healing as hoped.

Kluber underwent imaging texts Thursday, which showed that his ulna is mending properly. Cleveland manager Terry Francona said Kluber can begin range of motion and that he will be re-examined in two weeks.

The right-hander broke his arm when he was struck flush by a line drive hit by Miami’s Brian Anderson on May 1. At the time, the Indians said surgery wasn’t needed, and Francona said the medical staff told him Kluber was having “expected healing.”

Kluber has been fitted with a protective brace. He said it was a relief to have the cast off and is excited that he “can do a lot more now.”

The 33-year-old ran sprints in the outfield before the series opener against Tampa Bay.

Kluber won 20 games last season and at least 18 in each of the past three seasons. He is 2-3 with a 5.80 ERA in seven starts this year.

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