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Maddon confident in bounce-back year from bats

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.

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"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."

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