Double play: Rays lose Rocco Baldelli, Charlie Montoyo to manager jobs

New Twins manager Rocco Baldelli, center, poses with Twins chief baseball officer Derek Falvey, left, and GM Thad Levine after the team announced the hiring of the former Rays outfielder and coach during a news conference Thursday, Oct. 25, 2018, in Minneapolis. Baldelli, 37, replaces Paul Molitor, who was fired after four seasons with a 305-343 record. (Associated Press)
New Twins manager Rocco Baldelli, center, poses with Twins chief baseball officer Derek Falvey, left, and GM Thad Levine after the team announced the hiring of the former Rays outfielder and coach during a news conference Thursday, Oct. 25, 2018, in Minneapolis. Baldelli, 37, replaces Paul Molitor, who was fired after four seasons with a 305-343 record. (Associated Press)
Published October 25 2018
Updated October 25 2018

LOS ANGELES — Manager Kevin Cash always praised his players first for the unexpected success the Rays had this season, but he would often make mention of the effort and contribution made by his reconfigured coaching staff.

Other teams took notice.

And Thursday, the Rays lost two of those coaches for good reasons as field coordinator Rocco Baldelli was named manager of the Twins and a few hours later bench coach Charlie Montoyo was hired to manage the Blue Jays.

How the Rays replace them, whether they look to minor-league coaching staffs, an ex-player in the front office or go outside the organization, will have to wait.

Thursday was about seeing Montoyo, who started in the organization as a minor-league manager in 1997, and Baldelli, their 2000 first-round pick as an outfielder, go on to bigger things after joining the Rays staff in 2015.

"Charlie and Rocco are two quality individuals who have served the Rays organization for a long time,'' Cash said in a statement. "They build solid relationships with players, understand how to earn their trust and have impacted many players' careers for the better. In the four years we spent together they were both instrumental in helping me on a daily basis. Each one is very deserving of this opportunity, and I wish them well."

The Rays could be about to lose another key person, as senior vice president Chaim Bloom is one of two remaining candidates for the Mets general manager job. Former Brewers/Rangers GM Doug Melvin was eliminated Thursday, according to multiple reports.

Bloom issued a short statement through the Mets acknowledging his Wednesday interview with owners Fred and Jeff Wilpon, saying they had "a productive meeting" and "enjoyed" their time together, declining to do a conference call interview in deference to his current role with the Rays.

Baldelli, 37, wasn't thinking about pursuing a managing job until he unexpectedly emerged as the hottest candidate on the market, interviewing with all five teams that were looking (also the Angels, Reds and Rangers).

He said it wasn't until talking with the Twins brass and learning more about the organization that he felt it could work. Other things he said suggested the Twins' job became his top choice, and he got a three-year deal.

As much as Baldelli's loyalty to the Rays made it tough to consider leaving (or even interviewing elsewhere) — he had spent all but one year of his adult life working for them — the support he got from the front office and the advice and counsel from Cash made it somehow easier.

"It was very, very emotional," Baldelli said by phone after his introductory news conference. "There were some tears involved. But at the end of day I'm very, very excited, and I know that I made the right decision. I'm a Twin. This is an opportunity of a lifetime, and I believe that.''

The Twins said there were a lot of reasons to pick Baldelli, citing the value of leadership and communication and having a partnership with the manager.

"I don't think I could have envisioned a scenario where we could have found a better partner than Rocco Baldelli,'' chief baseball officer Derek Falvey said in Minneapolis. "He's a special person. Everyone in this room will get to know that over time. He's someone who is focused on growth development, open-mindedness and communication.''

Montoyo, 53, had interviewed a handful of times previously, including for the Rays job that went to Cash in 2015 and earlier this month with the Reds.

He was a late addition to the Jays field after reports of a final five being chosen, but he obviously impressed enough to get a three-year deal. His hiring was announced Thursday with his introduction on Monday.

Toronto president Mark Shapiro in a release cited Montoyo's "warmth, authenticity, and extensive experience'' as well as his "collaborative nature" in leading. GM Ross Atkins noted Montoyo's passion for the game and "superior ability to connect and relate" and have "an overwhelmingly positive influence" on players and staff.''

Montoyo, in the release, said he was "honored and humbled" for the "amazing opportunity.''

Baldelli said getting the Twins job and having Montoyo, one of his "best friends in the world," get hired in Toronto, made for "one of the happiest days" of his life. "There's no way to explain to you the feeling I have inside,'' he said.

If the Rays look to fill the positions internally, candidates could include minor-league managers Jared Sandberg, Brady Williams, Craig Albernaz, plus  field coordinator Michael Johns. They likely will talk first about reshaping the roles. Baldelli also worked with outfielders; Montoyo with infielders.

They are not likely to lose any other coaches as new managers typically don't bring along  staffers from their previous organization.

Contact Marc Topkin at [email protected]

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