Monday, June 25, 2018
Tampa Bay Rays

Ryan Hanigan impressing Rays with preparation

PORT CHARLOTTE — Ryan Hanigan has plenty of other interests.

He recently got involved with show dogs and had one earn a Best of Breed ribbon at last week's Westminster Kennel Club show. He buys and breeds horses, including a filly that won a 2012 race at Tampa Bay Downs. He enjoys golf, fishing and traveling. He has a background in education, with a father who was an FBI agent and a mother who taught and worked at a college. He likes a good book and the occasional deep conversation, delving into a favorite subject of philosophy, particularly existentialism, especially Nietzsche.

But as the Rays officially opened spring training Saturday, it's the extensive interest Hanigan has shown in learning and working with his new pitchers that has been a primary topic of conversation and admiration.

"He works hard, and you can tell he has those intangibles," ace David Price said. "He wants to help our pitching staff."

Traded from the Reds to the Rays in December, Hanigan, 33, came down from his Boston area home to St. Petersburg in mid January so he could catch the pitchers who were working out at the Trop, wanting to see firsthand every detail from how the ball comes out of their hand, moves and breaks to how it bounces in the dirt.

More extensively, he sought access to the team's proprietary system in order to watch video of the pitchers' past performances, practically every game against American League East opponents, to get a better handle on preferred sequences and patterns along with hitter tendencies.

"It takes a little time to get to know people and get that relationship built, but he kind of sped that process up," starter Alex Cobb said. "That first bullpen I threw to him, he was already talking about stuff I did in the past and stuff he would like to see us try to build on and to try some new things.

"When you hear that right out of the gate the first time you throw a bullpen, you have nothing but trust for that guy, and you know he's working as hard as he can off the field as well as on the field to get that relationship built to the level it needs to be at."

Hanigan, who had been with the Reds his whole career, doesn't see it as a big deal.

"I didn't expect any accolades for any of that," he said. "That's just part of the job. Once I signed I should do some work, and the guys were around. It was just something I figured was probably the right thing to do."

Having admired Hanigan from afar for years, the Rays arranged the December trade, signed him to a long-term deal that with a 2017 option is worth $13.7 million and installed him as the primary catcher, shifting Jose Molina back to reserve duty and last week trading Jose Lobaton.

Defense was a big draw, as Hanigan excels in all areas behind the plate, ranking as the active leader in catchers ERA (3.63) and among the top three in fielding percentage (.995) and caught-stealing percentage (36.3). "A very good catcher in all components of the game," manager Joe Maddon said.

And though Hanigan struggled through an injury-marred 2013 season, hitting .198 with two homers and 21 RBIs in 75 games, the Rays are equally excited by his offensive profile. Of particular interest is his proficiency in putting the ball in play and his plate discipline, having logged more walks than strikeouts for six straight years. "Kind of an interesting cat," Maddon said.

And word from Cincinnati is that Hanigan is an impressive clubhouse presence as well. Maddon had heard good things from Rays officials and Reds manager, and former pitching coach, Bryan Price. And Maddon's initial impressions have been excellent.

"I talked to Ryan Hanigan for five minutes the other day and I thought I knew him for the last 10 years," Maddon said.

Hanigan has done well to get this far, undrafted out of Boston-area Andover High, taking advantage of an American Legion coach's connections to get to Division II Rollins College in Winter Park and playing three years for the Tars, then showing well enough in the Cape Cod league to get signed in August 2002 by the Reds. He made it to the majors by 2007 and eventually earned frontline status.

"People like to throw to him, and that typically comes from trust and success," Price said. "He has a great feel."

At each stage, hard work has been vital to Hanigan's success. And that obviously remains a primary area of interest.

"You've got to put in the homework," Hanigan said. "I don't want to be guessing out there. I want to have a plan, and I want the pitcher to know I have a plan and have confidence in me."

Marc Topkin can be reached at [email protected] Follow him on Twitter at @TBTimes_Rays.

Comments
Rays season turning into good one

Rays season turning into good one

ST. PETERSBURG — The Tampa Bay Rays are not the best team in baseball. They are not going to win the World Series this year. Heck, they probably won't even make the playoffs.But I tell you what. This team is a heck of a lot of fun to watch.And ...
Updated: 9 hours ago
Rodney Page’s takeaways from Sunday’s Rays-Yankees game

Rodney Page’s takeaways from Sunday’s Rays-Yankees game

The catwalks at Tropicana Field are arguably the worst feature, but they  came in handy for the Rays on Sunday. Yankees pinch-hitter Clint Frazier hit what looked to be a ninth-inning home run that would've given them a one-run lead. Instea...
Updated: 10 hours ago
Rays beat Yankees in 12 innings on Jake Bauers homer

Rays beat Yankees in 12 innings on Jake Bauers homer

ST. PETERSBURG — Rays first baseman Jake Bauers sat at his locker after Sunday afternoon's 7-6, 12-inning win over the Yankees and thumbed through his text messages. There was no way he could get through them all. That's what happens when ...
Updated: 10 hours ago
Rays journal: Yarbrough comes through, Venters to DL, support for Ramos

Rays journal: Yarbrough comes through, Venters to DL, support for Ramos

ST. PETERSBURG — Ryan Yarbrough was only supposed to throw on Sunday if it was an emergency. In the 12th inning with the score tied 6-6 and a runner on first, there was an emergency.Jonny Venters tweaked his right hamstring trying to cover firs...
Updated: 10 hours ago
Rays team up to beat Yankees again 4-0

Rays team up to beat Yankees again 4-0

ST. PETERSBURG — With all that's been said, tweeted, ranted and written on these pages and elsewhere about the Rays' odd, unorthodox, weird and some days downright wacky pitching plan, this might be the craziest thing yet:It's working.Like, rea...
Published: 06/23/18
Rays Tales: Why ‘trades’ and ‘prospects’ are always in same conversation

Rays Tales: Why ‘trades’ and ‘prospects’ are always in same conversation

Besides the continual evolution of their intriguing pitching plan, the primary topics of conversation for the Rays over the next several weeks will be trades and prospects. And not mutually exclusively.Some sooner than others, the Rays are going to c...
Published: 06/23/18
Rays journal: New confidence carries over for Willy Adames

Rays journal: New confidence carries over for Willy Adames

ST. PETERSBURG — The key to SS Willy Adames rapping two of the biggest hits in the Rays' 4-0 win Saturday actually took place the night before.An RBI single that snapped an 0-for-12 and a second hit two winnings later in Friday's game restored ...
Published: 06/23/18
Marc Topkin’s takeaways from Saturday’s Rays-Yankees game

Marc Topkin’s takeaways from Saturday’s Rays-Yankees game

INF Daniel Robertson has only played two games after a short DL stint, but it seems like he has already made a half dozen great plays. Willy Adames and Jake Bauers get the attention, but Robertson has the skills to steal the show any night.It is obvi...
Published: 06/23/18
For starters: Rays vs. Yankees, looking for two straight

For starters: Rays vs. Yankees, looking for two straight

UPDATE, 2:38: Clarifying what was a communication error with the team PR staff, Rays manager Kevin Cash said LHP Blake Snell was slated for an extra day's rest all along and will face the Nationals on Monday not the Yankees on Sunday. The Rays will u...
Published: 06/23/18
Rodney Page’s takeaways from Rays-Yankees

Rodney Page’s takeaways from Rays-Yankees

1. SS Willy Adames had a nice night, and there appear to be many more in his future. He had two hits, an RBI and an inning-ending leaping catch on a line drive by Didi Gregorius in the fifth.2. DH C.J. Cron needs to shake things up. Take a different ...
Published: 06/22/18