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Rays looking for clean break from past with new manager

FILE - In this Oct. 22, 2014, file photo, Kansas City Royals bench coach Don Wakamatsu talks to his players before Game 2 of baseball's World Series against the San Francisco Giants in Kansas City, Mo. Raul Ibanez, Kevin Cash and Wakamatsu are the finalists to replace Joe Maddon as manager of the Tampa Bay Rays announced Friday, Nov. 21.  (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall, File) NY170
FILE - In this Oct. 22, 2014, file photo, Kansas City Royals bench coach Don Wakamatsu talks to his players before Game 2 of baseball's World Series against the San Francisco Giants in Kansas City, Mo. Raul Ibanez, Kevin Cash and Wakamatsu are the finalists to replace Joe Maddon as manager of the Tampa Bay Rays announced Friday, Nov. 21. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall, File) NY170
Published Nov. 23, 2014

So, about the Rays cutting their managerial list down to the unexpected trio of Kevin Cash, Raul Ibanez and Don Wakamatsu

First was what baseball operations president Matt Silverman called the "especially difficult" decision to bypass — and likely now part ways with — longtime bench coach Dave Martinez.

While Martinez has a different personality and style than Joe Maddon, Rays officials clearly wanted a clean break from the past, their suggestion that a "new voice" was more likely to push the team forward hinting that they sensed staleness in the clubhouse that could linger.

Bringing in that new voice will spark the "next level" narrative, but the gamble is finding the proper balance, the right guy who is willing and able to build on the clubhouse culture they cherish rather than restructure it his way. Research and 90-minute phone conversations led the Rays to think Cash, Ibanez and/or Wakamatsu may be able to do so, but the more in-depth, in-person interviews starting Dec. 1 will reveal much more.

In Ibanez, who was still playing a month ago, and Cash, just 36 and three years off the field, the Rays seem to seeking the next "great" manager, maybe jumping early but willing to let them grow — molded in the Tampa Bay environment — for the prospect of high-end results rather than watch them do so elsewhere. Though quite different in style, both have strong leadership skills, enough to give Rays officials confidence they could handle a team where several key players supported Martinez.

Wakamatsu seems like the "safer" pick in that he, unlike the others, actually has managed a game (737 between majors and minors) and has the experience and perspective of 11 years as a big-league coach (and two managing the Mariners), though he also will have his own ways of doing things.

For just 2015 results, Wakamatsu (or, arguably, Martinez) would make the most sense. The decision will be whether the Rays feel the long term is better with Cash or Ibanez, knowing initially there may be some growth moments — and the need for a strong bench coach. (Or maybe they hire Wakamatsu with Ibanez as his bench coach to be groomed?)

Martinez, who is signed for 2015, hasn't commented yet, but it would be awkward and uncomfortable — for the new manager, the other coaches and the players — to have him remain on the big-league staff. He'll meet with the Rays this week, likely seeking permission to talk with other teams, though he could consider another position in the organization. Bigger picture: Martinez's chances of getting any managing job would seem severely diminished as he considered this his best shot in six interviews, and not making it to the final group didn't look good.

FAMILY TIES: RHP Jose Dominguez, the hard-throwing reliever acquired from the Dodgers, is a cousin of Rays RHP Alex Colome, who is a nephew of former Devil Rays RHP Jesus Colome. And RHP Greg Harris, also in the Thursday trade, is the son of ambidextrous former big-league P Greg A. Harris, who was a Devil Rays minor-league coach 1996-97.

RAYS RUMBLINGS: With Jose Molina gone, the Rays are working to add a backup to Ryan Hanigan — either via trade or signing — who has more experience than Curt Casali and, preferably, options so they can compete. … In addition to the expected trade of Matt Joyce and/or David DeJesus, the Rays may be looking to deal from depth in reserve infielders (Logan Forsythe or Sean Rodriguez) and bullpen (Brandon Gomes, et al). … 1B Allan Dykstra and RHP Bryce Stowell signed minor-league deals, per mlb.com. … Silverman said it was "smoothly awkward" making the first deal with former longtime colleague and now Dodgers boss Andrew Friedman: "When evaluating a deal you often try to put yourself in the other person's shoes, and in this case that wasn't very hard to do."

Contact Marc Topkin at mtopkin@tampabay.com. Follow @TBTimes_Rays.

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