Sunday, May 27, 2018
Tampa Bay Rays

New Rays hitting coach Mottola debuts his personalized approach

NEW YORK — Chad Mottola's stint as the Rays' new hitting coach got off to an exciting start Thursday, as Kevin Kiermaier and Steven Souza Jr. welcomed him with two homers each in a 5-4 loss to the Yankees.

Mottola had been hard at work since early afternoon, heading into the cage with some of the occasionally wayward batsmen he inherited from fired Derek Shelton, talking with many of the others.

Mottola didn't profess to having any new radical ideas or any all-encompassing "magic pill" philosophy. He sounded pretty much as billed: a guy who is a hard worker, a good listener and strong communicator and understanding of the need to mold an individual approach with each of his hitters.

"That's what my strength is," Mottola said. "Dealing with the different personalities, trying to get them to perform."

The benefit of bringing Mottola in now was to give him the final 3½ weeks of this season to be more ready for next, and he plans to spend a lot of time watching and listening.

He will "dive right in" with some of the players he knows from his three years in the Rays' minor-league system, plus Brad Miller and Nick Franklin, who he worked with during the winter near their Orlando homes. He will "sit back and wait" with some of the others, especially the veterans, wanting to learn their routines. In other words, though he has "ideas" he's probably not going to be telling Evan Longoria to change anything anytime soon.

"The three weeks, I think it helps (all) of us," Mottola, 44, said. "I don't want to be selfish saying it only helps me. I think it's going to help them being comfortable, gaining trust, so there is a plan in the off-season so when I'm coming in in the beginning of next year there is trust immediately."

Mottola prides himself on communication and tailoring his work to the individual player, a lesson he learned playing for eight different organizations during his 16-year career, including briefly with four different big-league teams.

"At the time it wasn't too much fun, but it's really helped me at this time to realize it's got to be put in their words, use their language," he said. "And that's what's going to be these last couple week, learning what makes sense to them."

His coaching philosophy was shaped a lot by Dwayne Murphy, who was his coach when he played in the Toronto system, and who assisted him during his one previous season as a big-league hitting coach in 2013 with the Jays. Also from the veteran Toronto hitters, an eclectic stable that still includes Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion, both of whom failed early before becoming stars.

Seattle's Adam Lind, who had Mottola as a minor- and major-league coach in Toronto, raved about his knowledge, experience and manner. "He's relatable," Lind said. "You can tell him what you think. You don't have to hold anything back."

Mottola's leadership skills surfaced early, when he was a 30-year-old playing back at Triple A in 2002 and helped an admittedly "little bit overwhelmed" just-promoted catcher named Kevin Cash, and developed an ongoing relationship with the Rays manager.

Mottola isn't a big video guy, saying it can be helpful but also hurtful as "it also clouds a guy's mind." He is savvy enough working in this organization to say that analytical data and advanced stats can be a big help. "I love the fact that we think outside the box," he said. "That's kind of why I signed here. I embrace it."

He has, of course, plenty to do. And we would be remiss not to offer some suggested priorities:

• Souza. Thursday's two bombs obviously made for a good introduction, but he is arguably the biggest concern the Rays have, whether he will be the impact player they gave up so much for (in essence both Wil Myers, who is starring in San Diego, and Trea Turner, who looks like a future star for Washington) or the guy who strikes out more often than any other player (150 Ks in 420 plate appearance going into Thursday) and doesn't homers consistently (three in 207 at-bats before Thursday).

• Corey Dickerson. He has hit enough, 18 homers and 29 doubles, to dispel concern that his power was a Coors Field creation, but he has not hit enough overall with too much of an all-or-nothing approach and reduced a No. 8 hitter rather than the middle of- the order bat they gave up a lot for.

• Kiermaier. The two homers he hit, and three in two days, are clear signs of the power he has, and not necessarily a good thing. That's because the bigger goal is to complete the thus-far impressive transformation to a No. 2-style hitter, hitting balls to the left side, dropping bunts and taking walks to take more advantage of his game-changing speed.

Catchers Curt Casali and/or Luke Maile are on the list, too, as Mottola obviously has plenty to do. One hitter as a time.

 
Comments
Rays pitchers Ryne Stanek, Anthony Banda dominate in 5-1 win over Orioles

Rays pitchers Ryne Stanek, Anthony Banda dominate in 5-1 win over Orioles

THE BASEBALL LABORATORY IN ST. PETERSBURG — Up is down. Down is up. Hello is goodbye. Goodbye is hello. A reliever is a starter. A starter is a reliever.These are your 2018 Tampa Bay Rays.You never know what's going to happen. And just when you...
Updated: 3 hours ago
Rays journal: After Alex Colome trade, Rays’ closer situation is fluid, Kevin Cash says

Rays journal: After Alex Colome trade, Rays’ closer situation is fluid, Kevin Cash says

ST. PETERSBURG — The Rays have had to get creative in how they start games. Now, after Friday's trade of closer Alex Colome, they might have to get creative in how they finish them.How they handle the ninth inning going forward will be a fluid ...
Updated: 4 hours ago
Thomas Bassinger’s takeaways from Saturday’s Rays-Orioles game

Thomas Bassinger’s takeaways from Saturday’s Rays-Orioles game

Interesting decision by the Rays to start RH reliever Ryne Stanek on Saturday. The Orioles' Nos. 1 through 5 hitters were righties, and Stanek came in allowing a 1.228 OPS against righties and a .592 OPS against lefties. It ended up working.How ...
Updated: 9 hours ago
Rays Tales: What the trade of Alex Colome and Denard Span leads to next

Rays Tales: What the trade of Alex Colome and Denard Span leads to next

The reality of Friday's surprising trade of Alex Colome and Denard Span to Seattle is, of course, between the extremes.One side is screaming this is the latest proof the Rays are driven more to pocket money than winning games (and, for the loudest, o...
Updated: 12 hours ago

For starters: Rays vs. Orioles; Ryne Stanek makes first start, Carlos Gomez returns

ST. PETERSBURG — The Rays' bullpenning experiment continues, with right-hander Ryne Stanek to open this afternoon's game against the Orioles at Tropicana Field. First pitch is scheduled for 4:10.It is the first career start for Stanek, who has ...
Published: 05/26/18
Rays trade closer Alex Colome, outfielder Denard Span to Mariners

Rays trade closer Alex Colome, outfielder Denard Span to Mariners

ST. PETERSBURG – In January, sure.In July, absolutely.But, now?And, once again, for someone who they hope helps in the future.The Rays made a shocking trade at a surprising time of year Friday, dealing All-Star closer Alex Colome and Tampa...
Published: 05/25/18
Updated: 05/26/18
Rays journal: Rays shut out by Orioles in opener

Rays journal: Rays shut out by Orioles in opener

By Joey JohnstonTimes CorrespondentST. PETERSBURG — Rays LHP Ryan Yarbrough deserved better Friday. But the offense didn't offer much, allowing the Orioles to escape with a 2-0 victory before an announced crowd of 11,354 at Tropicana Field."It ...
Published: 05/25/18
Rays trade Alex Colome and Denard Span to Mariners for prospects

Rays trade Alex Colome and Denard Span to Mariners for prospects

The Rays made a major trade Friday afternoon, sending All-Star closer Alex Colome and OF Denard Span to the Mariners.The return is two minor-leaguers, RHP Andrew Moore and RHP Tommy Romero. The Rays also sent cash to the Mariners.Span, a Tampa produc...
Published: 05/25/18
For starters: Sergio Romo on mound tonight as Rays open series against Orioles

For starters: Sergio Romo on mound tonight as Rays open series against Orioles

By JOEY JOHNSTONTimes CorrespondentST. PETERSBURG — For openers, the Rays will use RHP Sergio Romo, the 35-year-old career reliever, as tonight's starter against the Baltimore Orioles at Tropicana Field.Romo is making his third career "sta...
Published: 05/25/18
Alex Cobb excited about return “home” to Trop even in Orioles orange

Alex Cobb excited about return “home” to Trop even in Orioles orange

RHP Alex Cobb has already pitched twice against his former Rays mates in Baltimore and said it didn't feel that weird, especially since there were so many new faces in the lineup.But coming back to the Trop, where he made his big-league debut and spe...
Published: 05/25/18