BOSTON -- Manager Joe Maddon said James Loney's incredible production has been one of the nice surprises for the Rays this season.
But 10 months ago, Loney's future appeared much different.
He was the every-day first baseman for the Boston Red Sox. He was the first guy on the depth chart that didn't include any All-Stars or an up-and-coming heir apparent. First base in Boston could've been his, perhaps for years, if he were to re-sign with the team in the offseason.
Instead, the Red Sox pursued other options at first, ultimately signing Mike Napoli to a one-year, $5 million contract that included incentives.
Loney signed a one-year, $2 million deal with the Rays, a team he said he's happy to be a part of. But at one point last year, he thought he could be with the Red Sox for the foreseeable future.
"It was a good experience [in Boston]," Loney said. "I've always liked the nostalgia and majestic feel the Red Sox have. It was always one of those places growing up that you hear about a lot, you hear about the history and stuff. I had a great time playing there and I liked it a lot.
"It was one of those situations where you're playing and you don't know what's going to happen. So you just go out there and play hard and see what happens. It didn't work out that way [in Boston]. But I feel like things happen for a reason, and I'm in the best situation here [with the Rays]."
While Napoli entered play Wednesday with nine homers and a .262 average, Loney entered with eight homers and a .296 average. Napoli has contributed 1.5 wins above replacement (WAR), while Loney has contributed 1.6 WAR, according to fangraphs.com.
Loney never produced this way in Boston, though, where he hit .230 with two homers in 100 at-bats. He felt he was unlucky.
"I'm a guy that hits the ball hard, sometimes right at people," he said. "That was one of the things they told me coming [to the Rays], 'Even last year, the amount of balls you hit hard were pretty similar to what you've done in the past.'
"Sometimes you don't get any hits. That's the way the game goes sometimes. It is what it is. I always tell people this is what I signed up for."
Soreness gone, Price to make rehab start Friday
BOSTON -- David Price was just trying too hard. The Rays left-hander learned his lesson, manager Joe Maddon said, and will take it a little bit slower as he begins a rehab assignment Friday.
Price reported soreness after a bullpen session Saturday, experiencing a slow recovery while trying to work his way back from a sore triceps. The soreness was due to extended effort from Price, who was pushing his body to the maximum as if he was "in mid-season form," Maddon said.
But Price threw a productive bullpen session Tuesday and felt great this time. The next step will be a rehab start with Class A Bradenton on Friday, in which Price will have no pitch count, but Maddon expects it to be a short outing.
"Guys who have never been hurt before, sometimes they don't know the difference between soreness and pain," Maddon said. "Soreness is not a bad thing. Pain is bad. He was abnormally sore. A lot of times when you get sore, you're just rebuilding the muscles to see how your body is going to work. He's doing good. We'll let him throw those couple innings and reevaluate after that."
The Rays have yet to map out a plan for Price, but Maddon said it's reasonable to expect Price will return within a few weeks.
"I think there's definitely a possibility he could be back before the All-Star break," Maddon said. "The soreness set us back a little bit, but it seems to be back on task right now."
Rays like impressive Torres as a reliever
BOSTON -- Alex Torres is already drawing comparisons to former Rays reliever J.P. Howell in the way he burst onto the scene and has very quickly earned the respect of manager Joe Maddon, who doesn't mind throwing Torres into high-leverage situations.
With 18 1/3 scoreless innings this season, Torres has been so good that the Rays will leave him in the bullpen for the time being, rather than attempt to convert him back to a starter, as he was for most of his Minor League career.
"I've been so impressed with what he's doing right now," Maddon said. "We all have. For me, I think my mindset, we have enough of the [Jake] Odorizzis and the [Alex] Colomes and the [Chris] Archers and all those guys that are able to fulfill that starting role. I think what he's doing right now is very beneficial to us, and his own personal career.
"And there's no guarantee to say that if he started if he would pitch equally well as he has right now. I don't know that. I just know what I'm seeing has been really good."
Dating back to 2011 -- he didn't pitch in the Majors last year -- Torres has thrown 23 1/3 consecutive scoreless innings, the second longest in club history, topped only by Howell, who threw 27 1/3 scoreless innings in 2012.
Since Torres has been used to pitch more than one inning in relief, he's typically been unavailable on back-to-back days. But Maddon said the team is hoping to limit the workload of their left-handed budding star.
"As we continue to do this, there will be that moment where I'm comfortable going a couple days in a row," Maddon said. "He insists he's fine the next day. This is just purely us being cautious. This is such a good story and a good arm right now, and such a high upside, we don't want to mess it up."
Hot-hitting Joyce to draw at-bats in left field
BOSTON -- Matt Joyce has been too good to bench, and even with the addition of Wil Myers, Joyce will continue to see the majority of the at-bats, though those will now come in left field as opposed to right field, where Joyce has primarily played this season.
Manager Joe Maddon said that Joyce, who was hitting .268 with 14 homers entering Wednesday's game against the Red Sox, will occasionally be spelled by Kelly Johnson or Luke Scott, but he'll frequently be in the lineup, either in left or as the designated hitter.
"He was a former All-Star," Maddon said of Joyce. "You'll see a lot of Matt against the righties out there. You can see Matt DH too. And put Kelly out there. Or even Luke. Probably you'll see Matty there more often, but Kelly has played a really good left field this year, and you saw the other day when we put Luke out there, he did well also."
While Johnson bats left-handed, he's had reverse splits again this season, consistent with his career, as he's hit .286 vs. lefties and .240 off righties in 2013.
Myers will get the occasional day off against a tough right-handed pitcher, but for the most part, Johnson and Scott will be sharing at-bats at designated hitter.
"It'll come down to divvying out the playing time between those two guys particularly, and trying to make the best guess on a nightly basis," Maddon said.