ST. PETERSBURG — The Rays wrapped up the first round of managerial interviews Saturday with the biggest of the 10 names on their list, talking with Hall of Famer Barry Larkin.
One major question with Larkin, 50, would be his commitment to managing. He previously said he wasn't at the point in his life withhis family to do so, backing out of an interview last winter for the Tigers job, though his youngest child has since graduated from high school in Orlando.
Larkin's only managing experience came with the Brazilian team in the 2013 World Baseball Classic, but he was well-respected as a player during his 19-year career with the Reds and is considered a strong leader. He has declined to comment on the Rays opportunity.
With the first round complete, Rays officials are expected to "take inventory" and decide this week how many to bring back for more in-depth in-person interviews. They have not ruled out adding to the field.
Already interviewed were former Nationals and Indians manager Manny Acta, Indians bullpen coach (and Tampa native) Kevin Cash, Brewers special assistant Craig Counsell, former big-leaguer/ESPN analyst Doug Glanville, not-yet-retired Royals outfielder/DH Raul Ibanez, current bench coach Dave Martinez, Triple-A manager Charlie Montoyo, former Mariners manager/Royals coach Don Wakamatsu and Giants bench coach Ron Wotus.
BELIVEAU HURT: Reliever Jeff Beliveau sustained a mild left lat strain Saturday while pitching for the MLB team in Japan, removed from the game after 11/3 impressive innings. He will be re-evaluated today. The MLB team, which includes Rays Evan Longoria and Ben Zobrist, was no-hit in a 4-0 loss, with three games to go.
TRADE SCENE: Infielder Andrew Velazquez (a speedy, 5-foot-8 switch-hitter) and outfielder Justin Williams (a big-bodied lefty swinger), acquired Friday from Arizona for pitcher Jeremy Hellickson, were quickly tabbed the Rays' Nos. 9-10 prospects by mlb.com.
New Diamondbacks general manager Dave Stewart liked them, too. "Velazquez is an outstanding talent who we think is going to be a good major-league player. That was not an easy decision. It was tough to involve him in this trade,'' he told the Arizona Republic. "And Justin Williams, we think is going to be a good power bat at the major-league level. They could both be All-Stars, but from our standpoint they're three or four years away from being major-league players.''
Stewart said they view Hellickson as a No. 2 or 3 starter.
SPRING THINGS: Pitchers and catchers will report to Port Charlotte Feb. 21, with the full squad due on Feb. 26. The 31-game spring schedule starts March 5. Tickets for the 14 games in Port Charlotte go on sale in January, with prices remaining in the $10-29 range. The team is accepting deposits for season tickets.