Monday, December 18, 2017
Tampa Bay Rays

Rays may hire assistant for hitting coach Derek Shelton

The Rays have no plans to get rid of hitting coach Derek Shelton, who, while praised by his boss, has been the target of public criticism for the team's offensive shortcoming.

But they may get him some help.

Rays officials are giving serious consideration to joining the growing number of teams that have hired a second, or assistant, hitting coach.

"We've had a lot of conversations about it since the end of the season and are continuing to discuss it," executive VP Andrew Friedman said Friday.

Doing so has two obvious benefits.

One is adding a person to share the increasingly growing workload, which includes breaking down video, reviewing scouting reports, holding small group hitting sessions in early afternoon, working individually with players in the cages and running batting practice.

The other is having a second voice, though speaking from the same script, to help get through to 13 position players of different backgrounds, statures and learning styles.

The Cardinals, Braves and Padres had second hitting coaches in 2012, and several other teams had unofficial assistants. When the Phillies joined them last week (hiring Wally Joyner to work with new hitting coach Steve Henderson, the ex-Rays coach), GM Ruben Amaro told the Philadelphia Inquirer it's a better system because "different guys take in information in different ways. I think it's important for our players to see different points of view and get information in different ways."

Having a second coach could make even more sense for the Rays given manager Joe Maddon's preference for letting players prepare individually rather than taking full onfield batting practice anyway. Though the extra coach can't be in the dugout during games, he, in theory, could be watching video or working with hitters in the cage. The Rays have carried a seventh coach in the past, either as "quality assurance" or as an assistant to pitching coach Jim Hickey, but didn't in 2012.

RAY-ROD?: Alex Rodriguez and the Yanks say there's no divorce planned, and the Marlins have been the team most speculated upon if they do. But what about the Rays?

You'd think there would be at least some interest as a DH, and some appeal to A-Rod, who has a complete no-trade clause. And some concern to the Yanks of keeping him in the division. From there, it's probably primarily a matter of money: a sliding scale, much closer to free than the $114 million he's owed, where it would make sense for the Rays to inquire.

RAYS RUMBLINGS: If the Blue Jays do let manager John Farrell go to Boston, that could renew their interest in bench coach Dave Martinez, who was a 2010 candidate. … The Phillies already were a possibility for free-agent-to-be CF B.J. Upton, and hiring Henderson, whom he liked working with, could make them a front-runner. … Interesting that Fernando Rodney won the AL comeback player of the year award voted by mlb.com writers but wasn't named one of the three finalists by his peers, for the Players Choice version: L.A.'s Kendry Morales; Chicago's Adam Dunn, Alex Rios. … Gerry Hunsicker left for the Dodgers front office saying he "felt like we accomplished" what he hoped to in seven years in a senior VP role, and with "nothing but respect and admiration" for Rays officials and praise for the unique culture they created. … Friedman spent last week watching the Arizona Fall League players, who include Tim Beckham and Hak-Ju Lee. … Alumni news: LHP Wilson Alvarez will be the pitching coach for Venezuela's World Baseball Classic team; DH Pat Burrell is doing advance playoffs scouting for the Giants still very much the same guy he was as a player; DH Paul Sorrento is now the Angels' minor-league hitting coordinator.

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