ST. PETERSBURG — Once you get past the kidding, jousting and the pranking, there is something more defining about the relationship between Indians manager Terry Francona and Rays counterpart Kevin Cash.
Admiration for how the other carries himself and does his job, appreciation for how they've helped each other, a commonality in personality and a true friendship rooted in all the right things.
"I've got a ton of respect for him,'' Cash said. "I kid around, and can play back and forth with the jabs. But I don't know if I could respect anybody more.''
The bond started to form in 2007, when Francona was managing a Red Sox team headed to win a World Series that Cash joined in August to add catching depth.
Francona admired the way Cash, then a 29-year-old career backup, handled himself on a veteran team, how he ran the game, how "he cared so much.''
Cash noted how Francona was "a special person,'' impressed with how he made just as much effort to connect with him as the Sox's veteran stars, and the day to day consistency of his personality as he managed.
Cash played for Francona again in 2008, then again in 2010, and by then the relationship was cast. They remained in touch as Cash retired and spent 2012 scouting while Francona, ousted in Boston after 2011, was doing TV work.
"When he was at ESPN and he saw somebody look like an idiot at the plate he'd text me and say that's what you looked like,'' Cash said.
Francona told Cash he'd like to bring him on if he managed again. When he was hired by the Indians in 2013, he made Cash his first hire, as bullpen coach and confidant. They roomed together in the spring, rode together to the airport, became best of friends during the 2013-14 seasons before Cash, now 40, got the Rays job.
"It was a really good fit,'' said Francona, 59. "We got so close when he came here. He's just a great guy. … I think a lot of him.''
To coaches who worked with them, such as Brad Mill and Matt Quatraro, they were an obvious pairing. "Very similar senses of humor, very self-deprecating, especially making fun of their own careers, and high baseball IQs,'' said Quatraro, who was in Cleveland and now Tampa Bay.
"For all the back and forth between them, you can tell they care about each other deeply.''
It's just that sometimes they show it in odd ways.
3B Matt Duffy said his strained lower back was feeling better Tuesday, that an MRI showed no reason for concern. He proved that by pinch-hitting, and walking, in the seventh. He likely won't rejoin the lineup until Friday. … CF Kevin Kiermaier was also out for a second straight day, but apparently feeling a little better as he was on deck to pinch-hit in the ninth and could play today. Cash described it only as "general illness,'' with symptoms including "a head cold, stomach doesn't feel too good, pretty ache-y.'' … RHP Jose Mujica became the fourth advanced Rays pitching prospect to undergo Tommy John surgery this year, joining LHP Anthony Banda and RHPs Jose De Leon and Brent Honeywell. Mujica will be out until 2020.
Rookie INF Andrew Velazquez was a 7-year-old second-grader at the St. Francis Xavier school in the Bronx during the tragic events of Sept. 11, 2001. "I didn't understand the magnitude at that age but I could tell something serious was happening by the way the adults were acting,'' he recalled. "They evacuated our school, and my grandmother came and picked me up. My dad was a cop, and he had to go downtown for the clean-up. He was one of the first responders. Everybody in New York knew somebody who was affected by it.''
Not so minor matters
Triple-A Durham lost 3-2 in the opener in the best-of-five International League championship series against Scranton/Wilkes Barre (Yankees), the game delayed three hours by rain in the eighth. Because of the threat of Hurricane Florence hitting North Carolina, all games will be played in Scranton. RHP Austin Pruitt starts in Game 2 Wednesday night. … Class A Bowling Green opens play Wednesday night I n the best-of-five Midwest League championship series against Peoria (Cardinals) with RHP Tobias Myers, who was acquired last year for Tim Beckham, on the mound.
• To boost crowds for the Saturday and Sunday games against the wild-card holding A's, the Rays are selling lower-level corner seats for $10.
• OF Tommy Pham extended his career-high hitting streak to 15 games with a first-inning single.
• DH Ji-Man Choi's ninth-inning walkoff homer Monday was only his second hit against a lefty in 25 big-league plate appearances.
• Cash was ejected after coming out of the dugout to argue an eighth-inning balk called on LHP Vidal Nuno. Cash said he knew he wasn't supposed to challenge that type of call, but was "looking for clarification.'' It was his first ejection this season, the eighth in his four years on the job.