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Kevin Cash’s growth as Rays manager impresses his old boss

Notes | Also, Corey Kluber talks about facing his old team, and catcher Mike Zunino’s shoulder surgery is successful.
Rays manager Kevin Cash talks with the media before the start of Friday's game against Cleveland and his former boss, Terry Francona.
Rays manager Kevin Cash talks with the media before the start of Friday's game against Cleveland and his former boss, Terry Francona. [ DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD | Times ]
Published Jul. 30|Updated Jul. 30

ST. PETERSBURG — Rays manager Kevin Cash, in place since the 2015 season, is the second longest-tenured manager in the American League. Who is first? His old boss and frequent good-natured tormentor, Cleveland Guardians manager Terry Francona.

When the Rays and Guardians met Friday night at Tropicana Field, it was a reunion of Cash and Francona, who still exchange barbs and obvious affection.

“For me, (it means) I’m getting old and for Cash, I don’t know, I didn’t think he was that good to begin with,” Francona said.

He laughed before getting serious.

“Everybody who knows us knows how much I think of him,” Francona said. “I know I’m biased — and I don’t apologize for it — but I think he’s really good and he has proven that out.

“I do know last year at the All-Star Game, watching him talk to the team, I sat back there and I was like, ‘Damn, man.’ As you do stuff, you get more confident, just like as a player.”

Cash, who spent 2013-14 as Francona’s bullpen coach in Cleveland, said time has flown.

“It’s pretty bizarre (to have the second-most managerial tenure in the AL), but I’m pretty appreciative of how fortunate I am to be here with the Rays with such a tremendous ownership group and front office,” Cash said. “I’m very confident that Tito (Francona) would say the same thing. These are very volatile positions, so I’m honored at the opportunity and happy I’m still doing it.”

Kluber vs. Cleveland

Rays starting pitcher Corey Kluber visits with the media before the start of the Friday's game. He'll take the mound Saturday.
Rays starting pitcher Corey Kluber visits with the media before the start of the Friday's game. He'll take the mound Saturday. [ DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD | Times ]

Saturday, Rays right-hander Corey Kluber (6-6, 3.91) will face his old Cleveland team for only the second time. Kluber spent parts of nine seasons with Cleveland, going 98-58 with a 3.16 ERA and two AL Cy Young Awards (2014, 2017).

“Once the game gets going, it feels like any other game,” said Kluber, who won his only other start against Cleveland last season while with the Yankees. “Prior to that, you take time to go see guys in the clubhouse. The organization is very special to me. But once the game starts, it’s really different.

“We were fortunate to have a lot of guys who played together for a really long time. A lot of guys still consider ourselves friends, even though we’re in different spots now.”

Medical matters

Rays catcher Mike Zunino, who is out for the season, underwent successful surgery to relieve symptoms of thoracic outlet syndrome in his left shoulder.

“He’s still in the hospital, which is normal because it’s a two-day recovery,” Cash said. “The doctor’s note back to us said that no doubt he was pretty jammed up in that area. He feels like this is going to help alleviate a lot of the issues, so we’re encouraged about that. Z will be pretty sore, but when he gets on the mend and the rehab process goes, if he’s got some freeness in that area, that will certainly be nice.”

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Cash said there was good news on right-hander Matt Wisler, who went on the 15-day injured list with a neck strain. Cash said it’s a C5/C6 strain or “nothing major … a couple of weeks kind of thing.”

Meanwhile, reliever JT Chargois, who went on the 60-day injured list April 12 with left oblique tightness, pitched one perfect inning Friday night with Triple-A Durham.

Miscellany

Limited tickets remain for Saturday afternoon’s Rays-Guardians game, which begins at 1:10 p.m. One of the season’s most talked-about promotional items will be offered: The Brett Phillips Devil Rays basketball jersey. … Before Friday’s game, Phillips coached up centerfielder Roman Quinn on how to play outfield with the Trop’s white-roof backdrop. Phillips said to ignore onrushing teammates. “Never take your eye off the ball,” Phillips said. … Principal owner Stuart Sternberg threw about a dozen batting practice pitches. Christian Bethancourt bunted a few, then ripped a liner up the middle.

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