ST. PETERSBURG — The Rays completed the makeover of their staff Friday by promoting Ozzie Timmons to be the first base/assistant hitting coach, but they lost the leader of their well-respected athletic training staff as Ron Porterfield took a higher-level job with the Dodgers.
Timmons, 47, has coached in the Rays system for 11 years, the past two at Triple A after working his way up from Class A. He worked along the way with current hitting coach Chad Mottola. A Tampa native and Brandon High and University of Tampa product, Timmons played parts of five seasons in the majors, last with the Devil Rays in 2000, during a 16-year pro career.
Timmons was the first of a half-dozen candidates interviewed. Manager Kevin Cash said the more he talked to the others, and the more he heard from players and staff about Timmons, specifically regarding his approach and attitude, a difficult decision came to an obvious conclusion.
"The most impressive thing about Ozzie, besides the baseball, is that his demeanor is the same," Cash said. "He’s a very upbeat guy. His demeanor is consistent every day. … There’s a lot of people that had a lot of nice things to say about Ozzie throughout this process.’’
Timmons said he was thrilled to get back to the majors as a coach, admitting he didn’t expect it to take 12 years, and even more so with the hometown Rays. "To be able to work with the guys that I worked with in the minors is going to be even better because you have that relationship," he said. "It should be an easy transition."
Porterfield, 52, has been head athletic trainer for 12 years and in the organization for 21, making it "a difficult decision" to leave. He will join the Dodgers, working for former Rays boss Andrew Friedman, as medical director. The Rays are expected to replace him from within, candidates including assistants Paul Harker and Mark Vinson and minor-league training coordinator Joe Benge.
Also, former Rays outfielder Sam Fuld, known for his hustling and fearless style, announced his retirement as a player and took a front-office job with the Phillies.
AROUND THE MAJORS: The Marlins declined outfielder Ichiro Suzuki’s $2 million team option, making him a free agent. The 44-year-old has said he wants to play until he’s 50. … Yankees right-hander Masahiro Tanaka said he will not exercise his opt-out clause and will remain with the team through 2020. … The Indians are convinced outfielder Michael Brantley will be healthy and productive, and they exercised his $11.5 million option for 2018. … The Pirates exercised their $14.75 million option on outfielder Andrew McCutchen.