Manager decision looks close

Figuring out who will succeed Joe Maddon as the Rays manager has been a lengthy process for the organization that began early in the offseason. That decision now appears to be drawing near. Don Wakamatsu was interviewed Tuesday and I expect the team to interview the other two candidates, Raul Ibanez and Kevin Cash, today and tomorrow.  That adds up to a press conference announcing the new manager on Friday.  What do you think?

From the looks of these guys, I think all bring interesting qualities to the table and each appears to be a solid candidate to become the fifth manager in team history.  I’ve heard a lot of skepticism about the direction the Rays have been headed this offseason, but all the moves made by new Matt Silverman, the new team president of baseball operations, make sense to me.  I still think the most difficult decisions they will have to make — or have already made — is the evaluation of each player from last season’s team.  Which of those players that had below-par seasons will rebound and which of those players won’t?  After that determination (which I’ll assume has been made) the Rays can move forward with finalizing the 2015 group.

–Bill Chastain

Hellickson in play?

According to Joel Sherman (via Twitter) of the New York Post, the Rays are “moving toward” trading Jeremy Hellickson to a National League team.

The 27-year-old right-hander began this past season on the disabled list while recovering from elbow surgery to “remove loose bodies” from his right elbow.  Hellickson, who earned 2011 American League Rookie of the Year honors, went 1-5 with a 4.52 ERA in 13 starts this season.

If the season began today, the Rays would have Hellickson, Alex Cobb, Chris Archer, Drew Smyly, Nathan Karns and Alex Colome to chose from for their rotation with Matt Moore due back around June.  Of that group, Hellickson will make the most money and he is headed for arbitration.

–Bill Chastain

Kudos to Kap

Kudos to Gabe Kabler for being hired by the Dodgers to become the team’s new farm director.

The former Rays outfielder should have a smooth transition since he is smart, a leader and has a good relationship with Andrew Friedman, the former Rays GM hired by the Dodgers after the season.

Good luck Kap!

–Bill Chastain


Ron Wotus is the Giants bench coach and a candidate to become the Rays’  next manager. Here’s what Giants manager Bruce Bochy had to say about Wotus, as provided by’s Chris Haft, who covers the Giants:

“Ronnie has done such a great job for me. … He sees different ways to do things. Very well-prepared. He’s going to bring a lot to any team [that hires him]. He’s the guy who really runs our defense here and he’s the guy who helps me quite a bit before the game, during the game. He’s the one who runs Spring Training. So [given] his knowledge and experience, he’s ready. There’s no question about it.”

Haft noted that Bochy also cited Wotus’ work under managers Dusty Baker and Felipe Alou. “Two guys I really revere and respect.”

Haft pointed out that it’s significant that while Baker brought Wotus to the Majors as a coach, both Alou and Bochy saw fit to keep him on the staff.

–Bill Chastain

30 for 30 On Livan Hernandez

I got a kick out of watching ESPN’s 30-for-30 documentary on Livan Hernandez and his stepbrother, Orlando Hernandez.

How does this pertain to the Rays?

Well, the “Devil Rays” entertained the Cuban defector back in 1996.  Hernandez, just 20 at the time, fellow defector Osvaldo Fernandez and their agent, Joe Cubas, were wined and dined by then general manager Chuck Lamar and owner Vince Naimoli.  Following a dinner at the Columbia Restaurant — which virtually everybody in the Devil Rays’ organization attended — Hernandez at breakfast at the Vinoy in St. Petersburg while answering questions by Marc Topkin of the St. Petersburg Times and me (I worked for The Tampa Tribune at the time).

In the documentary they speak about the Cuban economy that tanked in the early 1990s after losing their backing from the Soviet Union.  They segued from that to explain how dire everyday life became in the aftermath of losing that support.  That made the most memorable thing from out meeting understandable.  Hernandez ate like a prisoner on death row.  After one heaping mound of food on his plate, he ate another.  Hernandez’s weight is mentioned in the documentary.

He did not sign with the Devil Rays, who did not begin playing until 1998, but they were on the right track.  Hernandez had a decent Major League career.  A career that saw him fight his weight the entire time.

— Bill Chastain

Heading into Tuesday night

Rays pitchers are on a pretty nice roll. They have not allowed more than three runs in any of the first seven games of the current 10-game road trip.

Hellickson starts tonight. He’s had trouble against Texas in the past, so there will provide an interesting contrast based on the fact he’s coming off a strong start against Oakland.

Don’t know yet if Kiermaier will be in the lineup after he left Monday’s game for precautionary reasons after tweaking his back. Maddon did not rule him out after Monday night’s game.

Stay tuned.

– Bill Chastain

Hanigan a Scratch

Catcher Ryan Hanigan was scratched from the Rays’ lineup Tuesday night due to a stiff neck.

Joe Maddon sounded as though Hanigan would be available if needed, but he didn’t want him to start and then have to leave the game due to the injury.  The Rays manager said that could leave the team in a bad situation where Jose Molina would be the only option. Sean Rodriguez is the team’s emergency catcher.

–Bill Chastain

Expectations for Saturday night

Joe Maddon told reporters that he would not be surprised if the umpires talked to both sides prior to Saturday night’s game to warn against further action between the Rays and Red Sox.

When asked if he expected any carryover from Friday night’s action, Maddon noted: “I hope not, I hope not.  I can’t say that I don’t expect it.  Speaking for us there’s nothing that’s going to come from us to them. It was a very heated moment. … I’m hoping not. I’m wanting to get back to playing baseball. I really do.”

Maddon added that he wants the emphasis to be on playing better baseball and trying to advance in the standings because, despite the fact the Rays are nine games under .500, he does not feel they are out of the AL East race.

–Bill Chastain

Moore Waiting

Just talked to Matt Moore and he seemed cautiously optimistic about his left elbow.

The Rays left-hander said he woke up today and his elbow did not have swelling.  Later this morning he had an MRI at the Univeristy of Kansas and he reported that he’s still waiting to hear the results. He noted that the nature of results for an MRI often depend on the opinions of several doctors and what they see on the films.

At this point he’s not on the disabled list. Stay tuned.

–Bill Chastain

Readying for the Opener

A lot of activity going on at Tropicana Field.

They just played what appeared to be a test run for the “Aussie Rage” music they plan to play when Grant Balfour enters the game — not bad.

Also, this date holds significance.  Sixteen years ago, the Rays played their inaugural game at Tropicana Field when they met the Tigers and lost.  The complexion of the team has changed dramatically since those halcyon days.

–Bill Chastain


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