ST. PETERSBURG — The Rays filled one opening on their coaching staff by finalizing the hiring of Rodney Linares to handle third base and infield instruction.
Interviews for the field coordinator position remaining ongoing, as Triple-A manager Jared Sandberg declined an offer to take a similar position with his hometown Mariners.
The Tampa Bay Times reported last week Linares, 41, had emerged as the leading candidate for the job. He also fills the Rays' need for a Spanish speaker on the coaching staff in what will be his first major-league assignment after 22 years with the Astros.
"I was speechless, it took me a little while to gather my thoughts after I was told. It was such a blessing," Linares said Wednesday. "I immediately started crying and I called my dad right away. It was just a special moment. You work your whole life to get to the big leagues and now this opportunity arises. It's an amazing feeling."
Rays manager Kevin Cash got a recommendation on Linares from Astros counterpart A.J. Hinch among others.
"Rodney has impacted so many players during his time with the Astros, including José Altuve, Carlos Correa, Alex Bregman and J.D. Martínez," Cash said in a statement. "The amount of positive feedback we received throughout this process made it clear that he is a very high quality individual. In addition to his third base coaching duties, he will work with our infielders and bring many years of managing experience to our staff."
Linares' off-season didn't start well.
First he was let go by the Astros with no explanation after 22 years as a coach and manager in their minor-league system. Then shortly after he got home to the Dominican Republic his car was stolen and with it went his cellphone with the U.S.-based number that all his contacts in baseball had.
A few days later, Linares got a message on his Instagram account from apparently social media savvy Astros manager A.J. Hinch that Cash had been trying repeatedly to reach him about a job.
Linares and Cash eventually hooked up by phone, then had a four-hour face-to-face talk. And that led to a more direct call that last week that left Linares in tears, the opportunity to reach the major leagues for the first time.
Linares spent 22 years in the Astros organization, managing for 12 seasons with four affiliates, most recently leading Triple-A Fresno to an 82-57 record and winning the Pacific Coast League North Division title.
He previously managed Double-A Corpus Christi (2015-17), Class A Lancaster (2012-14), Class A Lexington (2010-11) and rookie-level Greeneville (2007-09). Overall he compiled a 761-694 (.523) record and took his teams to the playoffs in six of the past seven seasons.
Linares, though, was one of four Astros minor-league staffers let go after the season.
"He did a great job, he touched a lot of players and there's a lot of players playing in the big leagues today who give Rodney a lot of credit," Astros GM Jeff Luhnow told the Houston Chronicle at the time. "He's been a part of our system a long time and he's impacted a lot of our players. We absolutely appreciate that and thank him for his long service for the Astros."
Linares said Wednesday he was not given any reason or explanation.
"I was just told I wasn't going to be renewed," he said. "I didn't try to get to the bottom of it or anything. I just thought there are certain times when things happen. We had a good run. And thank God that now I'm a Ray."
Baseball America named Linares the Best Manager Prospect in the Pacific Coast League.
The Rays had two openings after field coordinator Rocco Baldelli was hired as manager of the Twins and bench coach Charlie Montoyo as manager of the Blue Jays. They already decided to promote third-base coach Matt Quatraro to bench coach.