A lot of what the Rays do under new manager Kevin Cash will be similar to how they operated under Joe Maddon, such as getting statistical input from the front office and making extensive use of defensive shifts. But there will be some differences, and one thing Cash is talking a lot about is more stability in the construction of lineups.
Not that the Rays will get totally away from some platooning or mixing and matching with different setups against right- and left-handed pitchers, as was common under Maddon, who averaged 137.4 lineups the past five seasons.
But Cash and team officials are spending a lot of time plotting lineups that will put at least some players in set spots every day, or at least narrow the possibilities to an either/or.
"Ultimately we would like our core guys to have a good sense of where they're hitting in the lineup," Cash said. "Some would be planted, whether in the No. 3 spot or No. 4 spot or wherever. And some we'd like to have it be, 'You're going to hit either fifth or sixth' or 'You're going to hit first or second,' something of that degree. Our goal coming in is to have a righty lineup and a lefty lineup, and have that be very similar on a daily basis."
So whether the Rays decide to put Evan Longoria third (where he has preferred) or fourth (where there is potential for him to be more productive), and whether they settle on Kevin Kiermaier or Desmond Jennings or even John Jaso at the top, expect them to stick with that plan. (Last year, for example, Jennings hit in six spots, and no lineup was used more than five times.)
Cash's theory is that the stability is better for the players, thus the team.
"We've talked a lot about it with the front office, and they think the same way, too," Cash said. "Maybe it's a little different than what's gone on in the past, but that's our thought, that we're going to roll with this and we'll see if we can provide some stability and get some guys comfortable when they come to the ballpark, they know they're hitting in this slot, and see how that shakes out for a while."
TAMPER, TAMPER: Commissioner Rob Manfred said the investigation into potential tampering by the Cubs in the hiring of Maddon is ongoing. Cubs president Theo Epstein told Sports Illustrated that he expects resolution, and absolution, before the start of spring training. If the Cubs are found guilty, the most likely sanctions would seem to be a fine or a loss/an assignment of a draft pick to the Rays.
RAYS RUMBLINGS: Released C Jose Molina, whom the Rays are paying $2.75 million to not play, will have serious left knee surgery and will likely miss the season, though he won't retire. … INF Asdrubal Cabrera will wear No. 13 and DH John Jaso 28, with new 1B coach Rocco Baldelli taking 15 so OF Brandon Guyer can keep 5. … RHP Ronald Belisario, a nonroster camp invitee, could earn around $1.8 million in salary and incentives if he makes the team. … A decision on the replacement for Sun Sports TV reporter Kelly Nash is close. … The Rays are looking to make the Feb. 28 first full-squad workout in Port Charlotte an event, offering free hot dogs, autographs and giveaways. … Jaye Maddon's (wife of Joe) Epic Boxing & Fitness Studio opens this week in South Tampa. … If LHP Robert Zarate contributes, credit the Rays' international scouts, who saw the 28-year-old Venezuelan pitch last year for a Japanese independent league club, the Gunma Diamond Pegasus. … A nod to ex-Rays C Toby Hall for another successful charity golf event, benefitting the Miracle League and other causes. … Cash called new C Rene Rivera "as exciting of an acquisition coming in as anybody." … Though ranking C Justin O'Conner only 61st among its top 100 prospects, mlb.com said he has the strongest arm.
Contact Marc Topkin at [email protected]. Follow @TBTimes_Rays.