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Rays’ Kevin Cash finishes third in AL Manager of the Year voting

Former Ray Rocco Baldelli wins top honors after his first season with the Twins, Aaron Boone was second.

Kevin Cash arguably did the most with the least in leading the Rays to 96 wins and a wild-card berth that marked their first trip to the playoffs since 2013.

But that wasn’t enough to impress the Baseball Writers’ Association of America members voting for the AL Manager of the Year award, as Cash finished third in the results announced Tuesday night.

Rookie Twins manager Rocco Baldelli, the former Rays player, exec and coach, was the winner in a close vote over the Yankees’ Aaron Boone.

Cash said he was happy for his former protégé and not a bit disappointed in finishing third for the second straight year.

"I’m very honored to be considered,’’ Cash said. "I think all of these awards, manager of the year especially, is representative of having a good team. You’ve got to have that to even get in the conversation. And it was awesome to be part of a really good team that is looking to continue to get better.’’

Though Rays fans took to social media to complain about the outcome, Cash really wasn’t close to winning, getting just three first-place votes and being named on only 15 of the 30 ballots (two representing each AL market).

Baldelli and Boone each got 13 first-place votes, and Baldelli won by also getting 13 second-place votes in balloting done before the playoffs. Baldelli finished with 106 points, Boone 96 and Cash 33. (Cash’s three first-place votes came from Martin Fennelly, Tampa Bay; Chris Assenheimer, Cleveland; Tom Gage, Detroit.)

Baldelli, 38, spent all but one year of his adult life working for the Rays in some capacity until opting to join the Twins last October after interviewing for four other manager jobs. He had immediate success, as the Twins improved by 23 wins to 101 and won the AL Central division.

Baldelli said what Cash did with the Rays and how he did it shaped how he approached his job.

"I know Kevin extremely well and I know what he does,’’ Baldelli said on a conference call. "I know what he does on a daily basis when he shows up to the ballpark. He gives his players and his staff and his organization everything he has, every ounce of energy he has in every way. He’s completely invested in this. And because of that they know it. Everyone around him knows it.

"I can only hope that I bring it in that way because I’ve seen it done in a really good manner by him, and by some others. It’s been really fun to watch him.’’

Baldelli had former Rays Bill Evers and Derek Shelton on his Twins coaching staff, and remained in touch with a number of former colleagues including Cash, though often as much for entertainment value as for any advice or comparing strategies.

That was evident even during the MLB Network interviews leading up to Tuesday’s announcement, with Baldelli asking if he really had to say nice things about Cash in public, and Cash suggesting that Baldelli gets dressed in a dark closet.

But Cash later spoke fondly of Baldelli winning the award, the youngest to do so.

"I think it’s awesome, and very deserving,’’ Cash said. "Pretty remarkable what he and the Twins accomplished this year as a first-year manager. He dealt with a young team, and he also had some veterans in there and you never know what you’re going to walk into. But it certainly seemed that Rocco’s personality stood out, that he’s such a likable person, and respected.’’

Also, that he wasn’t surprised that Baldelli had success.

"Anytime you work together with a guy for four years, and I briefly played with Rocco, but a friend you see excel, it makes sense,’’ he said. "Getting to know him over the years I think Rocco would be the first to say a lot of people played a huge role in helping develop his baseball mind from his post playing career.’’

Cash, 41, was widely praised by his players and bosses and those around the game for his work in his fifth season on the job, with a 414-396 (.511) career record.

He steered the low-payroll Rays through a series of injuries that wiped out of most of their rotation and saw 24 players sidelined 30 times. He handled a constant roster shuffling that led to a team record 57 players (including 19 rookies, nine of whom made their debuts). And he implemented several unorthodox pitching strategies, including using the opener and making aggressive and early matchup drive bullpen moves.

Cash was with his family watching 6-year-old son J.D.’s youth league game in St. Petersburg during the awards show (and doing his interview from the field by cellphone while dodging raindrops), and the night turned out all right. Shortly after Cash got the results, J.D. lashed a double.

"That was for you,’’ wife Emily said.

Shildt wins NL honor

Mike Shildt won the NL award for leading the Cardinals to the NL Central title in a close vote over Milwaukee’s Craig Counsell, as Shildt actually received fewer first place votes (10-13) but ended up ahead overall, 95-88. Atlanta’s Brian Snitker was third. Former Rays bench coach Davey Martinez, who led the Nationals to the World Series championship, finished fifth.

Morton’s Cy Young night

Results of the AL Cy Young award voting will be announced Wednesday night, but Rays starter Charlie Morton appears to have already won the consolation prize, tallying the most votes behind widely projected top finishers Gerrit Cole and Justin Verlander, his former Astros teammates.

Morton, who turned 36 on Tuesday, had a solid first season with the Rays, going 16-6 with a 3.05 ERA and 240 strikeouts while making a career-most 33 starts and working a career-high 194⅔ innings.

Cole was 20-5 with an AL-leading 2.50 ERA and a majors-most 326 strikeouts in 33 starts. Verlander was 21-6, 2.58 with 300 strikeouts over an MLB-most 223 innings in 34 starts.

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

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