Kevin Cash also eager to see what moves Rays make before spring

The manager heads into his 10th season with some thoughts on who is coming back and what some positions may look like.
Kevin Cash had plenty to say during his media session at the winter meetings on Tuesday.
Kevin Cash had plenty to say during his media session at the winter meetings on Tuesday. [ MARC TOPKIN | Times ]
Published Dec. 5, 2023|Updated Dec. 5, 2023

NASHVILLE — Kevin Cash is like the rest of us, waiting to see what deals baseball operations president Erik Neander comes up with to keep the Rays competitive and extend their streak of consecutive playoff appearances to six.

“Yeah, a little bit,” Cash said Tuesday, during a winter meetings media session. “A lot of trust with Erik and our group that they’re going to do everything they can with their efforts and work really hard to make sure that we have another good team. And we had a really good team last year.”

The Rays made one small move late Tuesday afternoon, re-signing reliever Chris Devenski to a one-year, $1 million deal, with a 2025 option for $2 million or a $100,000 buyout, with some incentives and escalators. Signed after being released in late August by the Angels, Devenski was 3-2, 2.08 in nine games for the Rays.

As the Rays seek to build off their 99 regular-season wins and build on a third straight early playoff exit, they have a number of questions.

Here are some of the answers from Cash, who heads into his 10th season with the Rays and is now the majors’ longest-tenured manager with his team.

On their starting pitching depth after Tyler Glasnow, who seems likely to be soon traded:

Noting the losses of Jeffrey Springs, Drew Rasmussen and Shane McClanahan to injury, Cash praised how the group stepped up.

“We went out and acquired Aaron Civale; he did a nice job for us. (Free-agent addition Zach) Eflin was a rockstar all season long. (Rookie) Taj (Bradley) really came on; I think we’re going to see a much — I can’t say better because he did a pretty good job — but much more comfortable version of Taj Round 2. And then with Shane Baz coming back and being full health should help. And then we’ll have something to look forward to at some point during the season between Rass and Springs.”

Cash made special mention of Zach Littell, who converted from reliever to starter.

“I don’t know where we’d be without Zack Littell. His workload, the body of work that he carried, he should be pretty full go. He’s a big guy that can handle a good workload.”

On the catching situation, where Rene Pinto looks to be the primary starter:

Starting pitcher Tyler Glasnow seems likely to be on his way out of Tampa Bay, but Rene Pinto has the inside track on becoming the primary starter behind the plate.
Starting pitcher Tyler Glasnow seems likely to be on his way out of Tampa Bay, but Rene Pinto has the inside track on becoming the primary starter behind the plate. [ JEFFEREE WOO | Times ]

“He did a tremendous job defensively for us. He showed spurts of being a similar offensive player that we saw in Durham. With more at-bats, he’s only going to get better. Pitchers really enjoyed throwing to him. They really complimented him, whether it was through me or to (pitching coach) Kyle (Snyder), and that’s saying a lot about a young catcher that doesn’t have those relationships. So I think Pinto is going to get a lot of reps. That’s our thought.

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“A guy like Alex Jackson (who was acquired in a Triple-A trade and re-signed to a minor-league deal) made some really strong impressions and we’ll see where that goes with him.”

On infielder Taylor Walls and his chances to be ready around opening day:

Cash said Walls will shift his rehab from right hip surgery to St. Petersburg after Jan. 1 so he can work with head athletic trainer Joe Benge and staff, and it should be close.It’s still a little early to tell, but he’s done really, really well so far.”

On lefty Tyler Alexander, claimed off waivers last month from Detroit:

“There’s some thought to see what he can do in a little bit of a stretched out role. We do like him; he’s certainly a guy that we think is going to contribute in many different ways to our club.”

On what team MVP Yandy Diaz could do to improve:

“Does he need to get better? I mean, I wouldn’t tell him that. But sign me up if he can go do what he just did again. He was everything to our lineup — tone setter, power hitter, get on base. Just watching him day in and day out it was a really remarkable season. That’s the reason why he got some MVP votes.”

On if it felt like he was heading into his 10th season:

“It actually doesn’t. I enjoy my job, enjoy doing it. Now if you ask me that in August, you might get a different answer. But at this point we’ve had enough time to freshen up, so it’s a pretty tremendous job.”

On a question Cash wished he would have been asked more:

“How’d it feel to win a World Series?”

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