Rays make it official, add Paul Hoover to coaching staff

Rays also promote Erlichman to "process and analytics" coach, hire mental skills coach from Red Sox
Paul Hoover in action during his 2001-02 stint with the Devil Rays. [Times files]
Paul Hoover in action during his 2001-02 stint with the Devil Rays. [Times files]
Published Dec. 4, 2018|Updated Dec. 5, 2018

ST. PETERSBURG – The Rays made official the final change to manager Kevin Cash's coaching staff, naming Paul Hoover as the new field coordinator.

The Rays also named Jonathan Erlichman as "process and analytics" coach and hired Justin Su'a as a mental skills coach.

Hoover, 42, was the Rays minor-league catching coordinator the past six years, and managed the rookie-level Gulf Coast League team before that in 2012. He 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, eight for the Rays.

He fills the field coordinator position opened when Rocco Baldelli was hired as manager of the Twins.

Manager Kevin Cash said Hoover made a solid impression in the minors and will bring a lot to the staff.

"Just the work that he's done with our catching corps," Cash said. "The impact that he's had, ultimately the buy-in he's had, the relationships he's built. The way he's continued to develop develop catchers, help catchers get to the big leagues whether with us or somebody else. If you go ask any catcher Hoov has come across, there's a pretty consistent message of how instrumental he has been with so many people catching wise. Now he's going to  get the opportunity to do that at the big-league level, not just with catchers but kind of evolving into coordinating our strategy on a daily basis and bringing a lot of things that sometimes can fall through the cracks."

Hoover 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 began 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.

Hoover joins third-base coach Rodney Linares as newcomers to 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.

Hoover's exact responsibilities are still being worked out; he said he welcomes the named Blue Jays manager) and hired Rodney Linares to take over at third.

Hoover said he welcomed the opportunity: "I feel like I'll be an asset and I can help in a lot of different ways.''

With Hoover aboard, four of the seven coaches and manager Kevin Cash played for the Rays in the majors or minors. A fifth coach, Kyle Snyder, coached in the Rays minor-league system for six years.

Erlichman, 28, has been with the Rays for six years, serving the last two as  director of analytics, which the team said included "overseeing the club's research efforts and coordinating improvements to decision-making processes." He previously was an assistant and an analyst in baseball research and development and holds a degree in mathematics from Princeton.

"He just gives a different perspective,'' Cash said. "He's going to make me better, he's going to make our staff better and ultimately I'm confident that that's going to resonate with our players. He's going to continue to challenge us in ways, whether it's something we overlooked … something he valued that he can kind of sit back and recognize over time and how it played out. … He's going to give us another way to utilize a lot of information.''

Further, Cash said, Erlichman – known as J-Money – will "really do a good job of challenging how we go about our process, the way we evaluate our decisions.''

Su'a (SOO-uh), 36, had been the Red Sox's  mental skills coordinator the past four seasons, and also works as mental performance coach for the NFL  Cleveland Browns.

The Rays have been looking for a few years as a mental skills coach, but felt it more important that it be the right fit, and believe they have that, especially now with a young roster, in Su'a, who drew raves for his impact on Boston's minor-leaguers.

Su'a, who worked previously for the Army and IMG Academy (and lives in Bradenton) will split time between the Rays and Browns.

"He really wowed us with his experiences,'' Cash said. "I think Justin is going to play a huge, a vital role, in helping us develop relationships.''