After taking over for highly regarded manager Joe Maddon in 2015, Kevin Cash feels more comfortable as he enters his second season as manager of the Tampa Bay Rays.
He’s established relationships with the roster and front office. He’s been battle-tested on in-game decision-making.
He’s also learned from rookie managerial mistakes after the club ended last season with an 80-82 record, missing the playoffs, and finishing fourth in the five-team American League East division.
The 38-year-old Cash, the youngest manager in baseball, often found himself relying on his coaching staff for help in critical moments of ballgames.
“That first year, you really lean on your coaching staff, and kind of take their opinions because the bulk of our coaching staff had years of experience working for Joe (Maddon),” Cash said. “You try to listen to their opinions, and get their thoughts on specific players and specific things on how they were done, and formulate your own ideas a little bit.
“It’s no secret that first month, there was some stuff that popped up where I really had to rely on my coaching staff,” the manager said. “As the year went on, I was able to learn from experiences that happened a week before or a month before, and make some better decisions.”
With 162 regular season games under his belt, Cash has more of an appreciation of how important communication is in the job description of being an MLB skipper.
“You have to communicate on a daily basis, on a weekly basis, and that’s with everybody,” the second-year manager said.
If that happens, relationships will build and evolve, Cash added.
In reflecting on his first season, he said the “most challenging aspect” was developing those relationships with “everybody you’re going to see on a daily basis.”
With just a few new players set to don a Rays uniform, Cash already has laid the groundwork.
That familiarity will definitely have its benefits, Cash said.
“Already having the relationships with the guys, and knowing (third baseman) Evan Longoria and (starting pitcher) Chris Archer, and what those guys stand for and how they go about their business, that helps. It also helps to get the new players acclimated,” he said.
While some coaches or managers would feel pressure taking the reigns from a wildly successful predecessor, Cash is grateful he had the opportunity to follow in Maddon’s footsteps.
The former Rays’ manager guided the team to the playoffs four times in eight years before accepting the Chicago Cubs’ managerial job in 2015.
“He’s a huge part of this organization, and a reason why they’ve been so successful, along with (former general manager) Andrew Friedman,” said Cash, who played for Maddon in 2005. “Matt Silverman (Rays’ chief of baseball operations) and I came into a situation that had great culture, really good players, and there was a great foundation. I’m just extremely appreciative and thankful that I got to follow him.”
In fact, Cash views Maddon as an influence in his own managerial style, along with other successful skippers including Terry Francona, of the Cleveland Indians and Buck Showalter, of the Baltimore Orioles.
“You try to take something from a lot of different managers. You have a lot of respect and admiration for anybody that fills this role,” Cash explained. “You try to take little bits of information and form your own style, but to get your own style, you’ve got to look and see what some other people are doing sometimes.”
With the offseason additions of hitters Corey Dickerson, Logan Morrison, Hank Conger, Steve Pearce and Brad Miller, the Rays figure to enter the season with a more versatile and balanced lineup.
“The front office has done a tremendous job of adding to our lineup,” Cash said. “We brought in some guys that we feel can really help us out and lengthen us out a little on a daily basis.”
After battling injuries nearly all of last season, he’s looking forward to having a roster of healthy players entering.
“Every team has injuries, but (staying healthy) definitely helps. It’s not realistic to say we’re going to be healthy for 162 games,” he said.
As for improving in the win-loss column and possibly clinching a playoff berth, Cash acknowledges the responsibility to show progress falls square on his shoulders.
That starts with properly handling tight situations late in games.
“We’ve got to find a way to win close ball games. We play a lot of close ball games, and as a manager, it goes back to putting your players in a position to succeed in the eighth and ninth innings, and extra-inning games,” he explained. “That’s going to be a focal point for me personally—to have some questions and try to get a read on the guys, and how they feel in those situations better.”
The Tampa Bay Rays will play an exhibition game against the Cuban National Team in Havana, Cuba on March 22. It will mark the first time since 1999 that an MLB club has visited the country. The Rays will fly to Cuba on March 20. The following day, they will stage a clinic before they finish their trip by playing the exhibition at the Estadio Latinoamericano in Havana. President Barack Obama expects to be in attendance.
2016 Tampa Bay Rays
- Leftfielder Corey Dickerson
- First baseman Logan Morrison
- Outfielder/Infielder Steve Pearce
- Catcher Hank Conger
- Shortstop Brad Miller
- Reliever Ryan Webb
- Starting pitcher Chris Archer
- Starting pitcher Jake Odorizzi
- Starting pitcher Drew Smyly
- Third baseman Evan Longoria
- Second baseman Logan Forsythe
- Centerfielder Kevin Kiermaier
Published March 9, 2016