ST. PETERSBURG — After getting ejected three times in his 2015 rookie season (including on Mother’s Day with his mom Patsy in the stands), and seven times over his first three, Rays manager Kevin Cash seemed to have mellowed.
He was tossed only four times over the next four seasons, the last only after great provocation on Sept. 1, 2020. That was when Yankees reliever Aroldis Chapman threw a 101 mph fastball at the head of Rays infielder Mike Brosseau, leading to Cash’s famous comment about having “a whole damn stable full of guys that throw 98 miles an hour.”
After going his previous 249 games (regular- and postseason) without an ejection, Cash was tossed twice in a 10-day span, May 22 in Baltimore and Wednesday at Texas.
Both times, coincidentally, came with Ji-Man Choi at the plate — after a strike was called in Baltimore (and with Choi in danger of getting thrown out himself, which Cash wanted to prevent) and after a seemingly blatant check swing in Texas.
Choi said he appreciated the show of support from his manager and that it means a lot to players. Cash said he understood, but that aspect may be overblown and is not the reason to be argumentative.
Maybe the Rays’ extended offensive struggles had something to do with Cash’s recent feistiness, though bench coach Matt Quatraro said, “there’s plenty of nights you’d be frustrated and not get thrown out.”
Cash said it is definitely not a change in temperament causing him to argue more.
“I’m not a big fan of doing that,” he said. “I think there’s a point when you have to argue and defend your players and defend what you think is right on the field. I don’t think it’s always the best course just to show your ass just to do it to defend your players.”
Quatraro, who is closest to Cash during games, said the now eighth-year manager has a better appreciation for the value of staying in the dugout and of where the line is with each umpire based on their personality and his vocabulary.
Also, as a disciple of Cleveland manager Terry Francona, Cash knows it doesn’t help to be known for constantly chirping at the men in blue (or black), or having his players do that.
“It’s definitely something we talk about regularly,” Quatraro said. “You see different managers handle it different ways where they ‘stick up’ for their players, or don’t.”
When Cash gets ejected, he typically heads straight to the clubhouse often without even pausing to give instructions to Quatraro, since they had been talking throughout the game and there is good syncopation in their fourth season together. As Cash leaves, the other coaches share with Quatraro things Cash may have asked them to do or look out for.
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Does Quatraro ever say anything to Cash?
“I told him after (Wednesday’s) game, ‘You’ve got to calm down, you’ve got to keep your cool, you can’t keep snapping like this.’ I would much rather have him stay in the game.”
Among Rays managers, Cash’s 13 ejections are third-most. Joe Maddon was tossed 37 times in nine seasons, Larry Rothschild 15 in three-plus seasons. Lou Piniella had some of the most colorful and animated ejections, but only nine in three Devil Rays seasons. Hal McRae had seven in nearly two full seasons.
Asked before Tuesday’s game about Texas starter Martin Perez, who is having a career year at age 31, Cash shared an interesting tidbit: In 2011, when he was a 33-year-old playing at Triple-A Round Rock in his final season before retiring, Cash caught Perez, then a 20-year-old “super’' prospect. That got us thinking, and clicking through dozens of baseball-reference.com pages, to see how many pitchers are still active in the majors that Cash caught during a big-league career that spanned parts of eight seasons with the Blue Jays, Rays, Red Sox, Yankees and Astros. The answer? Three — David Robertson (with the 2009 Yankees), Daniel Bard and Rich Hill (both 2010 Red Sox). There are at least two others Cash caught in the minors who are still active: Darren O’Day and Tommy Hunter.
Cue Alanis Morissette
The baseball schedule was done last summer (and only slightly modified after the lockout), while the NHL playoff pairings are a product of the regular-season standings and early round wins. Yet, somehow, the Rays and Lightning have had some ironic overlaps. The Rays played the Blue Jays while the Lightning faced the Maple Leafs in the first round, opened a series with the Marlins the day after the Lightning completed a sweep of the Panthers, faced the Texas Rangers Wednesday as the Lightning opened the conference final against the New York Rangers, and will be at Yankee Stadium June 14 when the Lightning could be playing Game 7 at Madison Square Garden. Under that scenario, both teams would have Monday night off in New York. Maybe a combined team dinner?
Nathaniel Lowe acknowledged his screaming at Rays pitcher Jeffrey Springs after his homer on Wednesday was about previous pitches. Specifically, per video breakdown experts @JomboyMedia, ones he thought were thrown at his face. … Odds on the Rays winning the World Series went from 14-1 on opening day to 20-1 on June 1, per betonline.ag. Shane McClanahan’s Cy Young odds went from 16-1 to 7-1. … Randy Arozarena wasn’t really kidding when he said Friday the only pitchers he is specifically aware of are “some (fellow) Cubans and (Yankees ace Gerrit) Cole. … The Texas trip was a return to the birthplace of Brett Phillips’ “Baseball is fun” brand, as he first uttered the phrase now on T-shirts and other merch during his breathless interview following Game 4 of the 2020 (neutral-site) World Series: “I didn’t even know I said it at the time. It was brought to my attention afterward.” … If the Rays ever do get down to final negotiations for a new stadium using some public money, the input from Gov. Ron DeSantis could be interesting. … Was good to see Matt Moore, who is still pitching (and somehow only 32), and Seminole High product Bobby Wilson, the catching coach, among seven former Rays in the Rangers clubhouse. Also, infielder/outfielder Brad Miller (who now lives in Tampa); catcher Jonah Heim; Lowe; and pitchers Brock Burke and Matt Bush.… Interesting comments from ex-Rays manager Joe Maddon after Shohei Ohtani’s rough start against the Yankees, suggesting, at the least, pitch-tipping: “They’re really good at reading pitchers. They’re very good at. … I’m not accusing anybody of anything, except that they’re good at it.” ... In addition to his Diamonds in the Rough podcast, pitching prospect Cole Wilcox is spending time while recovering from Tommy John surgery doing college baseball tournament analysis for SI.com. … Mike Calitri’s first job in pro ball (after a brief minor-league playing career) was as the Rays advance scouting coordinator from 2009-12. He went to the Indians in 2013 as a scout and in 2018 to the Phillies as manager of advanced scouting, then promoted to the big-league staff in 2021 as quality assurance coach. With Friday’s firing of manager Joe Girardi and staff reshuffling, he is now the bench coach, one Rob Thomson ejection from running a big-league game.
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