Happy with Rays, Loney reflects on time in Boston

Happy with Rays, Loney reflects on time in Boston

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."

Jason Mastrodonato is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @jmastrodonato. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.