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Rays’ Bobby Heck humbled to receive scouting’s ‘highest honor’

Notes | Three players are added and three lost in the Rule 5 draft of minor-leaguers. Also, Triple-A Durham has a new manager.
 
Rays special assistant Bobby Heck was honored Wednesday with a Scout of the Year award.
Rays special assistant Bobby Heck was honored Wednesday with a Scout of the Year award. [ MARC TOPKIN | Times ]
Published Dec. 6, 2023|Updated Dec. 6, 2023

NASHVILLE — Scouts put in long hours under challenging conditions in the unseen search for talent to help their team, so any recognition of their work is appreciated.

Even more so when it comes from their peers, which made receiving the East Coast Scout of the Year award Wednesday even more important to Bobby Heck, the longtime special assistant to the Rays’ top baseball executives. (Original Rays general manager Chuck LaMar also was feted with the Midwest award.)

“It’s the highest honor, I think, in what we do,” Heck said. “We don’t have awards at the end of the season by the baseball writers or by the players. It’s voted on by the guys that you are competing against as well, which makes it even more unique. To have that type of respect from your peer group is pretty humbling.”

After reaching 25 years of scouting, Heck, 57, said he expected to be on the ballot in 2021 but wasn’t, and then was left off last year when the administrator instead mistakenly added Rays amateur scouting coordinator Sydney Malone, who had reached out to inquire for Heck. This year it was right, Heck was voted in, there was a banquet (as opposed to 2021 due to COVID) and his wife, Nicole, and daughter, Jordyn, were able to make it.

“I think it worked out very well,” Heck said.

Rule 5 draft

Anthony Molina was picked up in the Rule 5 draft by the Rockies.
Anthony Molina was picked up in the Rule 5 draft by the Rockies. [ IVY CEBALLO | Times ]

Wednesday’s Rule 5 draft worked out OK for the Rays.

They lost three players, including Triple-A right-hander Anthony Molina in the major-league phase, but also addressed their need for pitching depth in selecting three hard-throwing right-handers in the minor-league portion.

Molina, who was 3-2, 4.37 for Durham and 2-5, 4.61 for Double-A Montgomery, was taken with the No. 3 pick by Colorado, which paid the Rays $100,000 and must keep the 21-year-old in the majors or offer him back. He was among players the Rays discussed but opted not to add to the 40-man roster last month, and thus protect them from being taken.

“It’s really tough,” said player development senior director Blake Butera, who managed Molina previously. “Just a great human being, great kid, someone that you really want to root for.

“Making the call and letting him know what happened, you could tell in his voice he was sad. He’s grown up here. This is his family. I think I’d be lying if I didn’t say we’re pulling for him to have a tremendous career.

“It’s a really young kid, big arm, some electric stuff, throws a ton of strikes. Somebody whose career I think is going to go in a really good fashion.”

In the minor-league phase, the Rays lost outfielder Alexander Ovalles — acquired from Texas with Osleivis Basabe and Heriberto Hernandez in the November 2020 Nathaniel Lowe trade — to Cincinnati and lefty John Doxakis, their 2019 second-round pick who got a $1.13 million bonus, to Cleveland.

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The most advanced pitcher added was Michael Gomez, a 27-year-old hard-throwing reliever who was 2-6, 5.45 for the Yankees’ Triple-A team and could get an invite to Rays’ spring camp.

“(We) see him fitting right into our Triple-A team up in Durham and being a pretty good arm for us,” Butera said. “Good fastball we really liked.”

Also added were two pitchers coming back from injuries: Roelmy Garcia, 20, from Pittsburgh; and Blake Brown, 25, from Philadelphia.

Players taken in the minor-league phase aren’t subject to any roster restrictions.

Miscellany

Former big-league infielder Morgan Ensberg was promoted to managing Triple-A Durham after five seasons leading Double-A Montgomery. The Bulls’ job was open with Michael Johns promoted to big-league first-base coach. … Single-game tickets go on sale to the general public at 10 a.m. Thursday via the MLB Ballpark app and raysbaseball.com. … Manager Kevin Cash turned 46 Wednesday.

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