Advertisement
  1. Sports
  2. /
  3. Rays

Tampa Bay Rays Kevin Cash: ‘We’re dealing with a lot of challenges right now’

Rookie relievers, pitching in September for the first time, are high on that list, and it’s quite noticeable when they falter.
Tampa Bay Rays relief pitcher Colin Poche, shown pitching last month in Houston, has had a tough stretch at times,. (AP Photo/Michael Wyke) [MICHAEL WYKE | AP]
Published Sep. 18
Updated Sep. 18

LOS ANGELES — The decisions Rays manager Kevin Cash makes in using his bullpen tend to make for interesting debates.

Especially when they don’t work out well, as in Tuesday’s 7-5 loss to the Dodgers.

With every game and every pitch being critical, Cash turned Tuesday to rookies Colin Poche, Pete Fairbanks and Cole Sulser. All had a hand in the defeat that cut the Rays’ lead over Cleveland for the second wild-card spot to one-half game.

The order in which Cash uses the relievers and how long he lets them pitch are often based on matchups, with recent workload also factored in.

The basic concept is based on determining which of the available relievers match up best against specific hitters or a group of hitters in the opposing order and using them in those slots, rather than set innings regardless of the game situation.

But who Cash has to pick from is a different issue.

As well as the Rays did in rebuilding their bullpen on the fly this season, the reality is that they still have a crew that not only is lacking experience in dealing with the pressures of a playoff chase, and certainly not in prominent roles (including closer Emilio Pagan). Some are rookies who never before pitched September, having headed home after the minor-league ends around Sept. 1, or to instructional league.

Instead, Nick Anderson, Poche and Fairbanks are being used in high-leverage situations with vital games on the line. Even Diego Castillo has only done it once before.

"We’re dealing with a lot of challenges right now,'' Cash said. "We’ve got guys that we’re counting on in leverage situations that have never played six months of baseball. They’ve played five months and they’ve gone home. So a lot of that we’re trying to balance — (pitching coach Kyle Snyder and bullpen coach Stan Boroski) do a good job with the workload. Even Nick Anderson, as dominating as he’s been, he’s never played (in) a sixth month. We’re trying to value all those thoughts into these decisions that we’re making.''

As random as Cash’s moves can seem, they usually have a reason behind them, though they obviously don’t always work out. And it’s worth pointing out that, as they knew would be the case, they got only two innings from starter Blake Snell in his first game back so the bullpen had a lot of cover.

Why limit Anderson to 10 pitches when he breezed through the sixth? He’s rarely been used to come out for a second inning, and to keep him available for Wednesday.

Why go to Sulser after Fairbanks made a mess to start the seventh? Being down three runs already, the idea was to save Castillo so he could work two innings on Wednesday, though Sulser made the margin worse by allowing two run-scoring hits.

Why go to Poche, who has had his struggles, in the fifth with a 1-0 lead? And why stick with him after he walked the first batter on four pitches and hit the second?

They don’t really have any other lefty options for one-inning, high leverage stints, and wanted a lefty at that point. With Jose Alvarado’s lost season and Hoby Milner’s injury, Poche is pretty much it, though righty Oliver Drake, who worked the third and fourth, has done a good job with lefty hitters. Otherwise, it’s Jalen Beeks and Anthony Banda.

The Rays think the issue with Poche is mechanical, that he’s not finding the release point to be consistent with the location, and thus getting the deception in his delivery to vex hitters. But Poche said last week in Texas he also felt he needed to make some adjustments mentally. Maybe the long season, and the repeated failures, are weighing on him.

"We need Colin to really be good for us,'' Cash said. "And that’s not looking to put more pressure on him because I’m sure he’s doing that enough of himself. Just go out there and execute pitches, 'cause when he does we’ve seen him be a really, really good pitcher.''

Poche didn’t stick around to talk to reporters after Tuesday’s game. Fairbanks, acquired from Texas in July after making an impressive return from Tommy John surgery, did and was asked if pitching in September, and in a race, is taxing.

“I don’t know if taxing is the right word. It’s a little different, obviously,'' he said. "I haven’t thrown anything outside of (instructional league) in September, and coming off a year where I didn’t pitch at all. I don’t think taxing, but allowing myself to trust who I am and what I bring to the table when I step on the mound and allowing that to happen versus it being physically or mentally draining. It’s just a matter of belief in myself and the process that I went through to get here and the faith the team and the Lord has to put me in those spots. And it’s on me to execute and deliver for them.”

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





ALSO IN THIS SECTION

  1. Sporting News is honoring the work manager Kevin Cash, left, and general manager Erik Neander, right, did for the 2019 Tampa Bay Rays. DIRK SHADD  |  Tampa Bay Times
    Cash was honored as top AL manager, Neander as MLB Executive of the Year
  2. In this July 24, 2016, file photo, Chicago Cubs' David Ross throws out a Milwaukee Brewers batter during a baseball game in Milwaukee. The former catcher reportedly will become the next manager of the Cubs. (AP Photo/Benny Sieu, File) BENNY SIEU  |  AP
    Cubs President Theo Epstein would be banking on the leadership Ross showed during a 15-year playing career.
  3. Bucs linebacker Jason Pierre-Paul is back. Can he help Tampa Bay get back into NFC playoff contention? MARK LOMOGLIO  |  AP
    Sports Day Tampa Bay podcast: Can JPP save the Bucs’ season? Plus: Can anything save Willie Taggart in Tallahasse? Why couldn’t the Yankees save themselves?
  4. The Nationals' Juan Soto hits a two-run double off Astros starter Gerrit Cole during the fifth inning of the World Series opener. Soto also hits a solo home run. ERIC GAY  |  AP
    Washington holds on for a 5-4 victory in Houston.
  5. Nicholas, a rescued bottlenose dolphin at Clearwater Marine Aquarium, made his World Series pick. Photo provided by the Clearwater Marine Aquarium.
    The Astros opened as the biggest World Series favorite in 12 seasons. But check out what’s going on poolside at Clearwater Marine Aquarium before making your bets.
  6. Washington Nationals starting pitcher Max Scherzer warms up during batting practice for baseball's World Series Monday, Oct. 21, 2019, in Houston. The Houston Astros face the Washington Nationals in Game 1 on Tuesday. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip) DAVID J. PHILLIP  |  AP
    Predictions from Marc Topkin, Martin Fennelly and John Romano.
  7. Karsyn Waechter, Riley Vigue and Avery Vigue are extending the athletic legacies of their fathers. Alissa Vigue, Special to the Times
    Doug Waechter and former Rays minor-leaguer are passing their love of the game on to their daughters and their teammates
  8. Between the potential of historic pitching matchups, the emergence of Juan Soto and the heroics of Jose Altuve, this Washington-Houston World Series has more going for it than the Vegas odds might suggest. MATT SLOCUM | AP Photo MATT SLOCUM  |  AP
    The Astros are the heaviest favorites the World Series has seen since 2007. Still, there is reason to believe his Fall Classic has memorable moments ahead.
  9. Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Jameis Winston talks to reporters after an NFL football game against the New Orleans Saints in New Orleans, Sunday, Oct. 6, 2019. The Saints won 31-24. (AP Photo/Butch Dill) BUTCH DILL  |  AP
    Sports Day Tampa Bay: What’s next for the Bucs, Astros-National World Series preview, the Lightning’s short-circuit start
  10. Davey Martinez gained valuable experience as a coach behind Joe Maddon in Tampa Bay. But when Maddon exited, the Rays bypassed him for a "new voice," Kevin Cash. Tampa Bay Times
    After failing to land a half-dozen manager jobs, including with the Rays, Martinez and Nats ended up a good match.
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement