Rays Tales: Success, innovation begat departures

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 coach on Thursday, Oct. 25, 2018. (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 coach on Thursday, Oct. 25, 2018. (Associated Press)
Published Oct. 28, 2018|Updated Oct. 28, 2018

LOS ANGELES — The Rays' way is spreading.

The number of teams that began using an opener to start games, and even more that began analyzing and considering it, is the highest profile and most impactful example.

Literally game-changing.

Then there was last week's double play, the hiring of coaches Rocco Baldelli (by the Twins) and Charlie Montoyo (Blue Jays) as managers — the most recent example of teams hoping to tap into their success, in process and performance, a different way. Similarly, the interest by the Mets and Giants in senior vice president Chaim Bloom for a general manager job.

To be clear, Baldelli and Montoyo certainly got hired on their merits, and they might have gotten the exact same opportunities, or even better, had they been working elsewhere.

But there is definitely a sense of curiosity in the industry about how the Rays do things — and clearly not everything they think of and try works out — and hiring from their staff is one way to access some of those processes. Even though they had been let go, former pitching coach Jim Hickey (who went to the Cubs) and hitting coach Derek Shelton (Blue Jays, Twins) were debriefed as well.

So, apparently, is trading for their players, as RHP Nathan Eovaldi found out when he got shipped to Boston in late July.

"When I got traded over here, that was some of the questions I was asked, "Why are the Rays so good? What are they doing over there to be so successful?' " Eovaldi said before his epic World Series performance Friday night. "And it starts with the management. (Manager Kevin) Cash does a really good job over there, and Charlie got hired with Toronto and Rocco is with the Twins now.

"When I was hurt in 2017, when I was rehabbing down there (and spending games) in the dugout, I'm picking the players' minds, but I'm also picking the coaches' minds. And I learned a lot from Rocco just about the small things.

"So just picking his mind and learning the little things about the game from him. I feel like a lot of the teams, when you have good success, the coaches end up going somewhere else.''

Red Sox manager Alex Cora had praise for both Baldelli, whom he credited for improvement in the Rays' running game, and Montoyo, a fellow Puerto Rican, for being "a great baseball man.''

The Rays are now tasked with replacing two coaches, which comes as the Jays and Twins along with the Angels and Reds, who also just hired managers, are also looking to do so. (And the Rangers and Orioles eventually will.)

That process includes coming up with a list of names and considering restructuring since Baldelli's field coordinator position was created to match his skills.

The Rays like to promote from within, but it wouldn't be a surprise for them to go outside for at least one new coach. Between the two hires, they need at a native Spanish speaker and an infield expert. As for the bench coach, Montoyo's vast game managing experience (in the minors) and quick thinking/anticipating seemed good assets for Cash, and may be logical prerequisites.

Rays rumblings

The usual Mets sieve-like news leaks preceded now official word they are picking agent Brodie Van Wagenen for the GM job over Bloom. As disappointed as Bloom (also a candidate for the Giants job) might be, this is probably a good thing long term. … LHP Blake Snell joined Boston LHP Chris Sale and Houston RHP Justin Verlander as finalists for the players-voted AL outstanding pitcher award to be announced Nov. 27. (Cy Young news comes Nov. 14.) …. Not sure there was an obvious candidate — maybe Joey Wendle at second base? — but it sure seemed odd as good as the Rays defense was to have no Gold Glove finalists. … Ex-Ray Corey Dickerson is a finalist for the NL leftfield award. … With information gathering complete, the next procedural step in the grievance filed by the union against the Rays (and three other teams) over usage of revenue sharing funds would be talks to either settle or go to a hearing before an arbiter. … The annual Fan Fest is slated for Feb. 9. … The downtown Tampa Con Agra plant site that Lightning owner Jeff Vinik just bought had been of interest to the Rays for a stadium, but Tampa officials told them in 2016 it likely wouldn't be available. Hmm.