03/02/2013 3:30 PM ET
Maddon confident in bounce-back year from bats
By Bill Chastain / MLB.com
PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. -- Manager Joe Maddon talked about this year's offense and noted, "I think we've been swinging the bats overall pretty good. … and I like it."
Based on the relatively low bar set by last year's offense, there's a good bet that this year's offense will be improved, which should translate to a better record.
"That's assuming we're able to pitch the same way we did last year," Maddon said. "No, I like it. You want to believe that Desmond [Jennings] is going to be better than he had been last year. You want to think Luke [Scott] is going to be better than he was last year. [James] Loney's looking to rebound. Yunel [Escobar] is looking to rebound. You know, they're still young. Often times, I'll talk about that, where if the guy is older and injured, it's harder to look for the rebound. But these guys are young and well. So you're going to have these bad moments, but they are really motivated right now. It's a really motivated group."
Maddon did not argue the fact that even if some of the new names don't rebound this season, their down years will be better than what the Rays' offense had in 2012. For example, Loney had the worst season of his seven-year Major League career when he hit .249 in 144 games with the Dodgers and Red Sox. Nevertheless, the Rays' new first baseman's numbers, even from a down season, would reflect an improvement over last year's first baseman, Carlos Pena. Pena hit just .197 with 182 strikeouts in 497 at-bats. Loney struck out just 51 times in 465 at-bats.
"Last year was kind of tough," Maddon said. "We did kind of struggle. To look back at last year and the fact we ended up like we did, I'm really proud of that group, because that was not easy. Although the pitching permitted last year to be as good as it was.
"… And I think the guys that did not do well last year really look good this year to the point of a nice bounce back. So, I like the way it's lining up right now. The attitude around here is fabulous. I couldn't ask for anything more. And I believe that they believe things are on the rise, which is important."
Fastball command key for Moore going forward
PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. -- Matt Moore arrived to camp last season pegged as the next great thing.
MLB Network rated the Rays left-hander as the overall top prospect in the Major Leagues and he seemingly could do no wrong. But Moore got off to a slow start during Spring Training when he experienced mild abdominal soreness, and that prevented him from pitching until mid-March.
Moore then got off to a bad start, going 0-1 with a 4.68 in four April starts and 1-4 with a 4.83 ERA in six May starts.
"I think the injury originally held him back," manager Joe Maddon said. "After that, I think expectations were really up there. I don't think he felt very well until a certain point of last season, then he did come back nicely."
Maddon was asked what Moore can do to avoid having another slow start.
"The biggest thing, if I could express anything, it's just to continue to work the process," Maddon said. "Just go out there, do your work. Go out there and understand what you want to do attacking hitters. Throw strikes with your fastball. … If he throws strikes with his fastball, it's over. He will just take off. If he does not, then you're going to see the tap dance a little bit. But if he throws strikes with his fastball, he's going to be dominant."
Losing by one no fun last season
PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. -- The Rays went 21-27 in one-run games in 2012. Only the Twins and Mariners had more one-run losses in the American League.
Included in those losses were five 1-0 games, which matched the 2008 Twins for the most by an AL team since the 1976 Rangers lost seven.
The Rays also suffered five 2-1 losses. Additionally, the Rays lost 10 games in which they allowed one earned run or less, the most such losses since the 1991 Cardinals and the most by an AL team since the 1976 Brewers.
"Those one-run ballgames make a huge difference," David Price said. "That's one swing of the bat, one pitch, one error. It's just one play that can turn around a baseball game, especially a one-run game. If we can win more of those -- Baltimore did a great job of winning those last year, that's why they had so much success. If we can win a couple of more one-run games and games we're supposed to win, we'll be OK."
• The World Baseball Classic began Saturday morning in Japan (Pool A) and Taiwan (Pool B). Brazil lost to Japan, 5-3, but Rays farmhand Leonardo Reginatto, who played for Class A Hudson, came through while playing third base for Brazil. He went 3-for-4 with two doubles and two RBIs.
• The Rays agreed to terms with the following players for 2013: right-handers Chris Archer, Alex Cobb, Alex Colome, Brandon Gomes, Jake Odorizzi and Josh Lueke; left-handers Jake McGee, Mike Montgomery, Cesar Ramos, Felipe Rivero, Enny Romero, Frank De Los Santos and Alex Torres; infielders Tim Beckham and Hak-Ju Lee; catchers Robinson Chirinos, Chris Gimenez, Jose Lobaton and Stephen Vogt; and outfielders Brandon Guyer and Desmond Jennings. The club also renewed the contract of right-hander Jeremy Hellickson. Every member of the 40-man roster is now under contract for 2013.
• The following pitchers were reassigned to Minor League camp on Saturday: right-handers Matt Nevarez, Jim Paduch and Jimmy Petterson, and left-hander Neil Schenk.
Bill Chastain is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.