1. Rays

Paul Hoover top candidate for final spot on Rays’ staff

ST. PETERSBURG – The Rays are close to filling the final spot on their big-league coaching staff, with minor-league catching coordinator Paul Hoover emerging as the leading candidate.

The Rays are believed to have interviewed about a half-dozen candidates, mostly internal, for the field coordinator position vacated when Rocco Baldelli was hired to manage the Twins. Former Rays Triple-A manager Jared Sandberg declined the field coordinator post and took a similar job with his hometown Mariners. An announcement is expected next week.

Hoover, 42, played 14 years mostly in the minors at the Triple-A level, reaching the majors for short stints in seven ­seasons, appearing in 40 big-league games.

He started his pro career with the Rays after being a 23rd-round pick in 1997 out of Kent State and made his big-league debut in 2001. He played briefly with the Rays again in 2002 but was released and started bouncing around, making it back to the majors with the Marlins in 2006-08 and the Phillies 2009-10.

Hoover started his coaching career in 2012 with the Rays as manager of the rookie-level Gulf Coast League team, then moved to catching coordinator in 2013.

If hired, Hoover will join third-base coach Rodney Linares as newcomers to Kevin Cash's staff, with Matt Quatraro moving from third base to bench coach to replace Charlie Montoyo, who was hired to manage the Blue Jays.