Rays officials had heard good things about Derek Shelton's work and were even more impressed when they spoke with him. Hiring new hitting coaches isn't an exact science, as gray of an area sometimes as evaluating old ones, but after considering five candidates, then a couple very seriously, they feel very good about their decision.
Talking to a few of Shelton's former Indians players, it sounds as if they couldn't have done better.
"I thought he was a great hitting coach," now-Dodgers 3B Casey Blake said.
What Shelton does best, from what Blake and now-Phillies OF Ben Francisco said, is work hard, communicate and, most important, mold his coaching techniques to each player.
"I feel like he exemplified a great coach," Blake said. "He had everything you wanted in a great hitting coach. He was available. His tips that he offered were timely — it's not like he has this swing in mind that everyone should hit like; he'll take your swing and work with it. And he's a worker.
"You don't want a hitting coach that thinks he knows everything. You want somebody who respects how hard the game is and how hard hitting is, and he does that."
"He's open to everybody's individual swing," Francisco said. "He'll just work with you individually. He doesn't have one set thing that he tries to make everybody do, so he's easy to work with. Everybody's different, and we all got here for different reasons, so you can't make everybody the same."
Shelton, 39, never played in the majors and spent a long time coaching in the minors, two traits — similar to the path of Rays manager Joe Maddon — that molded his approach.
"He works hard, and he's always ready to work," Francisco said. "He watches a lot of video. He's got a good personality. He gets along with all the guys, and he's easy to talk to. I think he'll do a good job over there."
Shelton, for his part, is thrilled with the opportunity. "I think any coach who likes hitting and looks at this lineup, you're thinking, 'This is awesome,' " he said. "I'm very excited to be around the caliber of guys that we have."
RAYS RUMBLINGS: If the Rays don't work out a lower-priced deal to keep 2B Akinori Iwamura (which remains unlikely), look for them to do essentially a "sign-and-trade" — picking up his $4.85 million option then dealing him, with several teams interested. (Dodgers?)… Iwamura's option has to be decided one day after the end of the World Series; the Rays have up to 15 days after for the others: LHP Brian Shouse (unlikely), C Gregg Zaun (probably not), LF Carl Crawford (most definitely). … The Rays will make the "assistant to the pitching coach" gig full time, so Brian Anderson will concentrate on TV work, providing analysis on the FSN/Sun telecasts that Kevin "100 games" Kennedy doesn't work. … No word yet on a new deal for radio guy Andy Freed, whose contract is up. … Among the Rays minor-league free agents thus far: C Michel Hernandez and INF Joe Dillon. … Several spots on the 40-man roster have to be cleared, with RHP Jeremy Hellickson and OF Desmond Jennings among those who have to be added. … In an espn.com series ranking of "Who runs this town" in terms of sports personalities, 3B Evan Longoria was ranked first, followed by Bucs legend Lee Roy Selmon and Lightning star Marty St. Louis.