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Rays' run production needs improving in 2015

As club heads into offseason, hitting coach Shelton expects to return

ST. PETERSBURG -- The Rays' returned home on Monday with their 77-85 season in the books, never having produced less offense in a season than they did in 2014. An American League-low 612 runs scored were the fewest in franchise history, behind even the inaugural 1998 club's 620.

As the team's offensive woes built over the course of the season, with several players posting numbers below their norms -- Evan Longoria's early-season struggles were especially notable -- hitting coach Derek Shelton became a common target of fans' frustration. But Shelton, who is expected to remain with the Rays, said on Monday that he's OK with that, because it shows their passion.

"Really? They point the finger?" Shelton jokingly asked when reporters brought up fans' criticism, as the Rays cleaned out their lockers and packed up for the offseason. "If they want to be disappointed or mad because we're not scoring runs, and it's at me, that's fine -- because of the fact that they are passionate about it, and they care, and that's what we want. But we've had some pretty good teams here and we're gonna continue to have good teams here."

Tampa Bay manager Joe Maddon and the rest of the organization have firmly stood by Shelton, who said he isn't worried about his job security.

"We have continuity," Shelton said. "I don't worry about that. It's something that I know you guys have to ask about, and it gets talked about, but it's not a concern on my mind. My concern is if Joe thinks I do a good job, if [executive vice president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman] thinks I do a good job, and the 13 guys that I deal with daily -- and I know they do, so that's not an issue."

But that doesn't mean the season hasn't weighed on Shelton.

"My mind's actually still working," he said. "I didn't sleep very well last night -- I still got some things going through it."

Still, Longoria's second-half turnaround, at least, is a positive sign for the offense looking ahead to 2015. After looking nothing like his usual self for much of the year, Longoria hit 11 homers after the All-Star break with 47 RBIs, only two fewer than AL leader Jose Bautista. Longoria finished the season with 22 homers and 91 RBIs, numbers that at least started to resemble his typical production.

And offensive problems were all around baseball in 2014, when pitching often dominated the game.

"Runs scored are down throughout the Major Leagues," Shelton said. "It's not just us that's struggling to score runs. You look at three teams in the American League East that finished last in the league in runs scored -- that just hasn't happened in the past."

David Adler is an associate reporter for
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