ST. PETERSBURG — When Peter Bendix started with the Rays in January 2009 on what became a two-year internship before he was hired fulltime, he had what in context were relatively important duties — running out to pick up lunch for the executives running baseball operations.
Bendix took on increasingly more significant responsibilities over the next 11 years, including an increased role last season in the dayto-day operations of the major-league team. Thursday, at 36, was promoted to senior vice president and general manager.
“I’m very flattered, I’m very honored,” Bendix said. “But really, the thing that I’m most honored is that the organization trusts me, the organization gives me this opportunity, and I get to work with these incredible people.”
Bendix’s ascension will not lead to dramatic change, the Rays say.
Erik Neander, who in September was elevated from general manager to president of baseball operations, still remains in charge and has final responsibility for trades, signings and other major moves.
But Neander said Thursday’s promotion serves two purposes.
One is allowing him, after estimating he has spent 90 percent of his time the last few years dealing with the major-league team, to address other aspects of a baseball operations department that has grown to around 300 people.
“Just making sure that there’s some time to get out, to get away, and to give the attention and care to the many areas of our operation that are not the tip of the iceberg,” Neander said, “but are as critical as anything to our future success and how we operate here.”
The other is giving Bendix, who came up on the research and development side, the chance to take on more responsibility with the big-league team, to “really develop into an interchangeable partner of sorts” with Neander.
“Pete certainly demonstrated over the 2021 season … (he was) fully capable of taking on a greater role with our major-league efforts from player procurements and roster-related decisions to the work in the clubhouse day-to-day, so he’s ready for this,” Neander said. “He’s ready to take on more and couldn’t be more deserving for the opportunity.
“I don’t necessarily think of this as a flip of a switch, so to speak, but a continuation of the growth and just further public recognition of that.”
The Bendix move, which puts the Rays in line with a growing number of teams that have two top baseball executives, was one of several made in baseball operations, including the promotions of Will Cousins and Chanda Lawdermilk to vice presidents, joining Carlos Rodriguez.
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Lawdermilk, who had been director of staff development and recruiting (what Neander called a significant area of impact) is now vice president of baseball operations, the first woman to reach that level on the baseball side in the Rays organization.
Cousins, who was director of baseball research and development, is now vice president of baseball development. Rodriguez’s title was also changed to vice president of baseball operations, given the numerous departments he oversees, including player development, performance science, international scouting and operations.
“As for why this structure, really like everything that we at least try to do, we’re looking for ways to get better,” Neander said. “We’re an increasingly large, complex operation … something that certainly requires greater guidance and adaptability and oversight and this structure, certainly with Pete as GM, and then also Carlos, Chanda, Will as the VPs, will help us improve in critical areas beyond tending to our day-to-day tasks.
“Things that are really important to us are including, but not limited to, our ability to lead with care and to strengthen trust across our entire operation, staff hiring, staff development, staff fulfillment, certainly driving innovation.”
Also, the Rays promoted former infielder Cole Figueroa from assistant director of hitting development to director of baseball operations, and Taylor Smith from lead analyst in baseball research and development to director of predictive modeling.
The team also promoted five business side vice presidents to chief officer titles: Rafaela A. Amador Fink (public affairs and communications), Juan Ramirez (technology), Jenn Tran (people and culture), Bill Walsh (business) and Bill Wiener Jr. (people and community).
Among the key changes to that group:
Amador Fink will now also oversee broadcasting; baseball communications; diversity, equity and inclusion; and social media. She also “will continue to focus on engaging the community and its leaders in conversation about the Sister City Baseball plan,” the team said.
Walsh will oversee consumer revenue areas, including business strategy and analytics; creative services; marketing; and ticket sales and service.
Tran and Wiener, who have been with the team since 1996, will add stadium and event operations to their responsibilities, and Tran also will oversee fan experience.
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