ST. PETERSBURG — The Rays acknowledge that Joe Magrane's credentials and on-air chemistry with partner Dewayne Staats will be tough to replace in the TV broadcast booth.
But with Magrane hired away by the MLB Network, the Rays are beginning a national search to do just that, and senior VP Mark Fernandez said a key requirement is that a candidate either "played or managed at a very high level."
Fernandez said they'll compile a list of names, with the help of their partners at Fox Sports Net, but want someone who will put some roots in the community and be an ambassador for the club, like Magrane for the past 11 seasons. Fernandez said they would like to fill the job by Christmas or, worst-case scenario, mid January.
"We're not interested in a hired gun," Fernandez said. "We want someone to be part of the Rays family."
The Rays could look inside the "family" for options. Fernandez lauded Brian Anderson, a longtime big-league pitcher who spent this year as an assistant to the pitching coach and filled in for Magrane on several broadcasts.
"Brian did a terrific job," Fernandez said. "He is very much like Joe, a really sharp wit and a terrific sense of humor. And I thought he brought a lot of the same kind of insight. … He's a great example of a guy who is an ambassador for us. … He's a perfect guy you'd want at a golf tournament, a rotary event or a hospital visit."
A couple of former Rays catchers' names have come up: John Flaherty has broadcast experience, and Mike DiFelice, a Palm Harbor resident, said last week he threw his hat in the ring.
One other key consideration, however, is how the new analyst meshes with Staats, the play-by-play man since the Rays' inception.
"This is like a marriage, these relationships," Fernandez said. "It's not just 150 nights they're sitting in the booth, they travel together, ride together. You wouldn't put someone in that seat if we didn't know he and Dewayne were going to (work well together)."
ONE MORE TRY? DiFelice, 39, may not be done with baseball, however. An original Ray who asked for his release on Aug. 31 and said then he was "90 percent sure he'd retire," he plans to play in the World Baseball Classic for Italy. He said he would also be willing to listen if a club wanted him to play next year.
HOT STOVE: With LHP Trever Miller expected to sign with the Cardinals, the Rays could go after another left-handed reliever for the bullpen (J.P. Howell is the only one now); Will Ohman, Arthur Rhodes, Joe Beimel and Darren Oliver are available. Miller has said he made a counteroffer to the Rays after they declined his $2-million option, and it "wouldn't have been a raise." … The Red Sox are reportedly one of several teams interested in free-agent OF Rocco Baldelli, a Rhode Island native.
ODDS AND ENDS: 1B prospect Rhyne Hughes had a breakout Arizona Fall League season, hitting .394 with five homers and 27 RBIs for the Peoria Javelinas. … The Rays say OF prospect Desmond Jennings, who battled back and shoulder injuries last season, showed he's healthy during Arizona Fall League play. … The Rays are selling special ticket packages for the holidays that include tickets to the home opener, April 10 vs. the Yankees, when the Rays raise their American League championship banner. The four-game pack ranges from $45-$99.
Joe Smith can be reached at [email protected].