Friday, December 15, 2017
Tampa Bay Rays

Royals' aggressive offense hits home with Rays

Rays officials didn't need to see how well the Royals have done this postseason to acknowledge how successful their aggressive, contact-oriented offensive approach has been. A 4-16 record against the Royals over the past three seasons, with a lopsided 122-60 scoring deficit, had already delivered the message.

And the Rays have taken notice.

"They have been a very difficult opponent for us the last couple of years, and we've seen firsthand how that style puts pressure on the pitching and on our defense and creates some havoc," baseball operations president Matt Silverman said Friday.

"There are certainly some lessons to be learned in the success that they've had. We're always looking to improve our approach and improve our offensive output while being cognizant of the defensive side of the equation, too."

Midway through the season, the Rays moved away from their patient approach and found success in being more aggressive earlier in counts. That will continue.

"Several years ago it seemed like there was a reward to patience at the plate, especially in knocking out a starting pitching and getting to a team's bullpen earlier," Silverman said. "Today bullpens are incredibly formidable, and a number of teams are adjusting and taking a more aggressive approach throughout and trying to hit the strikes they see. It's a different ballgame."

COACHING UP: Having pitching coach Jim Hickey extended through the next three seasons is a big deal, even if the Rays, per team policy on coaches' contracts, don't want to trumpet the news, reported last week by the Tampa Bay Times.

Hickey is considered among the game's best and, though loyal to the Rays, he would certainly be lured by other teams, offering big-bucks deals, if he got to the end of his contract. His agreeing to the extension, which may have been in place for a while, is also a sign of his faith in the organization.

NEW GUY: NHL Nashville Predators CEO Jeff Cogen doesn't have an exact title in joining Rays president Brian Auld's senior management team, but his hockey-heavy resume does include a stint as president of the Texas Rangers (2004-07). Cogen, 58, comes with high praise from his boss, Preds chairman Tom Cigarran noting record attendance and telling the Tennessean, "I have never seen a marketing person who is as thorough and organized and as systematic as Jeff." Cogen, who will split time between the teams through Feb. 1, called baseball his "true love" and the Rays' opportunity "a perfect fit."

RAYS RUMBLINGS: Best guess on the 2016 payroll is down from last season's $72 million to, at best, the same. … As expected, RHP Erasmo Ramirez qualified for early arbitration eligibility as a Super Two, giving the Rays 11 potential cases. The others, though some could be dropped: C J.P. Arencibia, RHP Alex Cobb, 2B Logan Forsythe, RHP Brandon Gomes, OF Brandon Guyer, OF Desmond Jennings, LHP Jake McGee, OF/1B Daniel Nava, C Rene Rivera, LHP Drew Smyly. … RHP Chris Archer also qualified, which was anticipated in his long-term deal, giving him a $2.75 million salary in 2016.

Contact Marc Topkin at [email protected]. Follow @TBTimes_Rays.

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