PORT CHARLOTTE — Outfielder Manuel Margot is only 27, but some of his Rays teammates treat him like an old man.
Or at least, the younger, less-experienced, Spanish-speaking players, such as Wander Franco, Luis Patino and Randy Arozarena.
“He’s like the papa of the group,” Patino said via team interpreter Manny Navarro.
Joking aside, Patino and the others say Margot, entering his sixth full big-league league season, has been a huge help as they learn their way, often riding together to and from the stadium, hanging out together in the clubhouse and constantly engaging in conversation.
“He’s always been there,” Patino said. “He was the first one to welcome me when I got traded over. He gives me a lot of advice, and he helps us out a lot.”
Margot said he has grown into being that guy and is happy to assist.
“I’m pretty proud of having that role,” he said via Navarro. “With the experience that I’ve had and some of the more time I’ve had compared to some of the other Latin guys, that’s the position I’ve fallen into.”
The questions often have more to do with off-field topics, such as logistics, team travel and clubhouse protocols, than on-field tactics.
“They ask me more about basic stuff,” Margot said. “Obviously, some of the stuff they do on the field they don’t need my advice for.”
Manager Kevin Cash said he has enjoyed watching Margot develop into more of a leader since he was acquired from San Diego in a February 2020 trade for reliever Emilio Pagan.
“He’s just very comfortable here,” Cash said. “And this spring, you can tell he has even taken it a step farther of kind of being a leader and corralling that group of the locker room. They really value his friendship, that relationship, and it’s impressive. He’s a really good guy.”
Cash suggested that seeing the impact veteran and potential Hall of Famer Nelson Cruz had in the Rays’ clubhouse after being acquired in late July may have eased the transition for Margot.
“I’d like to think that us having Nelson around for two or three months, that Manny realized some things and — not saying that Manny is purposefully trying to do this — but naturally, organically,” Cash said. “You watch a lot of our younger players just kind of flock to him. And if you’re going to go to somebody, Manny’s a pretty good pick.”
Plus, Cash said, Margot sets a great example by the way he plays the game and handles the ups and downs, especially on the platoon-driven Rays, where his starts against right-handed pitchers are limited.
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“He runs everything out,” Cash said. “He gives quality at-bats. He’s a good teammate. He’s supportive. He understands at certain parts of the year his role might not be in there every single day of the week, but he’s always ready when he’s maybe not in the lineup. That goes a long way, certainly within our team.”
As much as Margot can do to help others, the point can’t be lost that he also is a really good player — a right-handed hitter who can put the ball in play, flash occasional power, play top-notch defense at all three outfield positions and run well.
“Incredibly valuable,” Cash said. “He’s really good in all facets. Hitting, he’s another guy that gets in there and just gives good at-bats, puts the ball in play a lot. Defense to be able to go anywhere and play elite defense in a corner or center. And the way he carries himself on and off the field.”
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