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Rays' dogged pursuit of Scott finally pays off

Rays' dogged pursuit of Scott finally pays off

Rays' dogged pursuit of Scott finally pays off play video for Rays' dogged pursuit of Scott finally pays off
ST. PETERSBURG -- The Rays had been interested in Luke Scott for some time, so it's no surprise they were eager to add the left-handed-hitting slugger to the middle of their lineup.

That strong interest appealed to Scott, making his decision to sign a one-year deal with Tampa Bay a fairly easy one. The contract, officially announced Thursday, is worth a reported $5 million, including a $6 million team option or $1 million buyout for 2013, and has built-in incentives for plate appearances.

"They are a great team, a great organization and close to home, but they were very passionate about having me become a Ray. At the end of the day, I want to go somewhere where I'm going to be wanted," said Scott, who spent the past four seasons with the Orioles but was non-tendered by the club this winter. "I give my heart and soul to this game and to the team that I'm with. I want the same in return. I want the team that I'm with to really want me as well."

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That certainly applies to the Rays, who actively pursued him at the 2010 Trade Deadline. Executive vice president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman said Scott will be an everyday player, whether he winds up playing first base, designated hitter or eventually spending time in the outfield.

For his career, Scott has hit .271 with an .859 OPS against right-handers and batted .240 with a .787 OPS against lefties, so the Rays won't need to use an extra roster spot to protect him -- one of the many things about Scott's profile that intrigued Tampa Bay.

Scott enjoyed a career year in 2010, batting .284 with a .902 OPS and 27 homers. Last year, he battled injuries and hit just .220 with nine homers in 64 games before undergoing season-ending surgery to repair a torn labrum in his right shoulder on July 26.

Scott said his rehab is "a little bit ahead of schedule" and he has full range of motion, though he won't be able to throw from the outfield until May or June. But he will be ready to begin the season as either the Rays' first baseman or DH.

"I don't see why I shouldn't be ready for Opening Day," he said.

Having previously drawn attention for some of his political and religious comments, including a few jabs with former Rays pitcher Matt Garza, Scott downplayed his transition into a new clubhouse.

"I don't find it a problem. I'm a pretty easy guy to get along with, low-maintenance guy," he said. "I do my work, try to enjoy my teammates. I respect everybody. Once they're my teammates, they're like my brothers, they're like my family. I'm going to spend more time with them than I will with my own family. I'm excited. I'm looking forward to it."

Scott was equally excited about joining the Rays on the field. Having Tampa Bay's pitchers on his side will be enough of a relief, he said, adding that it was "very tough to make a living against that pitching staff." He also praised the current composition of the lineup he's joining.

"I think it's going to look really good," Scott said. "There's balance in our lineup as far as power, speed and guys who are really contact guys. I think we have a really good balance of righties and lefties all the way up and down. I think we should be pretty solid."

But that lineup is not a finished product yet. Friedman said the Rays have a lengthy list of players they are considering through either trades or free agency, clearly needing one more hitter to replace free agents Johnny Damon and Casey Kotchman. Signing Scott won't necessarily impact who they look for, Friedman said, nor will they limit their options to only first basemen.

"We're just looking for a bat. We like to have options. We like to be as flexible as we can be," Friedman said. "We don't want to pigeonhole ourselves into any one area, if we can avoid it, because it expands the applicant pool. We're just going through a long list of names right now."

Scott said he would add to that flexibility, playing wherever manager Joe Maddon tells him to, but Scott sounded Thursday as if he wasn't quite ready to become a full-time DH.

"I take pride in my defense. It's something I enjoy. It's a part of the game that's important to me," he said, "but at the end of the day, it's what the manager decides, and I'll do the best I can."

For now, Friedman and his staff will continue to look for another bat to complement their returning players and their newest addition.

"There's just a lot of ways we can go," Friedman said. "If we add player x, what's the implication for the rest of our guys and how everything fits together if something makes it more difficult to field a better team than something else? It's just something we're going through, and we obviously value defense a lot, but sometimes enough offense trips that line and makes it something that makes sense for the team, so that's what we're going through and trying to figure out."

Adam Berry is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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