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Scott hopes to return to Rays for healthy 2013 season

ST. PETERSBURG -- Luke Scott's signing prior to the 2012 season appeared to bring the Rays a much-needed thumper for an anemic offense.

Yes, the veteran slugger was coming off right-shoulder surgery and had not fully recovered, but any offensive impact Scott could have and his clubhouse presence surely would make up for what he lacked.

Unfortunately, that's not what happened. Scott did not have the kind of season the Rays organization and its fans envisioned.

"I'm extremely disappointed the way things turned out," Scott said. "I'm not disappointed about the way went about our business as a group. As far as preparation, effort and passion for the game, I think that was all there. Things just didn't work out.

"On a personal level, my shoulder, I handled it well. It got better as the season went along. The one injury with the back spasms caused a little ripple effect to the oblique. It was just something I had to deal with. Other than that, my shoulder stayed healthy."

After two trips to the disabled list that caused Scott to miss 45 games, he finished with a .229 batting average, 14 homers and 55 RBIs. Now the Rays must decide whether to bring him back in 2013 by exercising a $6 million team option, or whether they should buy him out for $1 million.

Rays executive vice president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman noted that it's too early in the offseason to know what they plan to do where Scott is concerned.

"Luke was coming off of major surgery," Friedman said. "We understood the risks coming in. He really scuffled in the first half. In the second half, he had the type of output that we kind of anticipated if things went well and lined up well."

Scott hit .243 in 26 games after Aug. 21 when he returned to the team after missing 28 games with a mild strain of his right external oblique. Typifying the kind of frustration Scott experienced this season was the fact he was hitting .385 in the 10 games leading up to the DL stint.

Other highs and lows from Scott's season included his start, in which hit .273 with six home runs and 21 RBIs from Opening Day until May 4. Then, from May 5 to through July 5, he hit .145 with three home runs and 15 RBIs in 35 games, including a club-record 0-for-41 slump from June 2-July 5.

Rays pitchers led the Major Leagues with a 3.19 ERA and a .228 opponent average, and they set an American League record with 1,383 strikeouts. Unfortunately for the Rays, the offense hit just .240, leaving an unbalanced equation between the two halves of the game. Like many of the Rays hitters, Scott expressed regret about the team's offensive production.

"When you have pitching like we had this year," Scott said. "I firmly believe we should have gone all the way. That's with my heart. That's where my heart was. Did it work out that way? No. Do I have peace about how we went about it? Did we cheat ourselves? No. Things just didn't work out, but it wasn't for a lack of effort.

"Due to injuries and [Evan Longoria's] situation, it was a tough situation to handle. ... As a whole, we fell short offensively, there's just no doubt about it. We fell short. It's frustrating for me, because I take that personally."

Scott has an engaging personality and an optimistic attitude, so he's already looking forward to the 2013 season when he will no longer be nursing his surgically repaired right shoulder. He also looked forward to the offseason, when he can do regular workouts rather than doing what he could while rehabbing his shoulder.

"The surgery is an 18-month process, and I'm not even at that mark yet," Scott said. "Reflecting back on my season personally, I had the 0-for-41 slump. That stunk. And I had the back and the oblique, but other than that, man, besides hitting .230, my production numbers for the amount of at-bats I had, they're not bad.

"... I feel good about next year. I feel good that I'll have a chance to heal up, get my shoulder back into shape. Start chopping some wood again and come back stronger than ever."

Clearly, Scott would like an encore season with the Rays.

"It's a great organization," Scott said. "Get to play in my home state, great group of guys here. The environment is awesome. It's just a great place to play. I really enjoyed my time here. I hope they'll have me back."

But for now, Scott said he plans to kick back in the outdoors and take out "all of my frustrations on God's furry little creatures."

Scott then teased, "I'll be out in the woods, just a loincloth and a spear and a campfire, killing and eating whatever I can get my hands on."

Tampa Bay Rays, Luke Scott