The Tampa Bay Rays made significant changes to their coaching staff this week, removing the three coaches who remained from the Joe Maddon era in Tampa Bay.
Long-tenured pitching coach Jim Hickey, (who was largely credited with the Rays pitching success in 2008-2010), bench coach Tom Foley, and and assistant hitting coach Jamie Nelson are all leaving their current positions.
It took three seasons, but the Rays are finally Kevin Cash’s team, through and through.
Jim Hickey is the only coach who will depart the organization entirely. Tampa Bay was fortunate to keep his brilliant mind on staff after Joe Maddon left the Rays for the Chicago Cubs. He leaves after a season that saw veteran Alex Cobb reinvent himself, but also saw mainstays Chris Archer and Jake Odorizzi experience some struggles.
The other two will remain in the Rays organization. Foley, the longest tenured coach, will coordinate major league operations such as Spring Training. Nelson will work with minor league hitters.
The Rays were unusual among MLB teams for keeping coaches like Hickey and Foley for extended tenures; their legacy and contributions to the organization will have a lasting impact for years to come. As the Rays look to finally right the ship and find the playoffs, however, a change feels overdue.
The Rays made their first significant change this offseason when they promoted minor league hitting coordinator Chad Mottola to the major league hitting coach position for the 2017 season.
Tampa Bay proceeded to put up some of the best offensive numbers this franchise has seen, with a team 107 wRC+ before injuries, departures, and individual slumps cratered the Rays offense in the second half. But it wasn’t all disappointment. Adeiny Hechavarria, Wilson Ramos and Kevin Kiermaier all rebounded in September.
Promoting the organizational philosophies of Mottola to the major league side proved successful in 2017, and now the team can replicate that on the pitching side with the promotion of Kyle Snyder from Triple-A.
As the players will tell you about Snyder...
Dude knows his pitching...— Brent Honeywell (@brent_honeywell) October 3, 2017
On a conference call last night, Kevin Cash said that he felt with with the upcoming promotion of several arms from Durham, it was important to have Snyder’s voice for those players in transition, and spoke fondly of his years of experience knowing Snyder both in the ACC in their college days, playing together on the 2007 World Series Red Sox squad, and working together now in the Rays organization.
Snyder’s coaching philosophy prioritizes the whole person, eschewing “my way or the highway” approaches for whatever works for the player, professionally and personally. It’s a philosophy not too dissimilar from Chad Mottola’s on the offensive side.
Charlie Montoyo was promoted from Triple-A as well, back when Kevin Cash joined the Rays in 2015.
According to Cash, Montoyo was already functioning in a bench coach role — anticipating important baseball decisions ahead of Foley and Cash in the dugout.
Cash noted that Montoyo’s near-two-decades of experience managing the Durham Bulls will be a further asset as Cash matures in his approach to the game. That is, of course, if the Rays can retain Montoyo through this promotion. His name has already been floated as a candidate for managerial jobs across the major leagues.
Here is the new look major league coaching staff:
- Manager: Kevin Cash (established for the 2015 season)
- Bench Coach: Charlie Montoyo (third base coach, 2015-2017)
- Third Base Coach: Matt “Q” Quatraro (est. 2018)
- First Base Coach: Rocco Baldelli (est. 2015)
- Pitching Coach: Kyle Snyder (newly promoted)
- Hitting Coach: Chad Mottola (est. 2017)
- Bullpen Coach: Stan Boroski (est. 2011)
As for 2017’s departing bench coach, Kevin Cash referred to Tom Foley as his mentor, and he anticipates that relationship will continue as he transitions to a coordinator role with the Rays front office.
Kevin Cash also spoke highly of Jamie Nelson, the former catching coordinator when Cash was in the Rays organization. Cash greatly valued that aspect of his coaching career with the Rays, and “in fairness” felt it was best to allow Nelson to return to that role and serve the organization where he fits best.
This always should have been Kevin Cash’s team to build, had his hiring been a normal situation. Instead, the Rays nabbed him very early in his post-playing career, promoting him from Terry Francona’s staff where he was the bullpen coach. Joe Maddon’s old crew was kind enough to be there for Cash as he learned the ropes, managing on his own for the first time ever.
Three years later, the Rays are finally Kevin Cash’s team to build and coach as he pleases.
This article was updated to include Matt Quatraro, former Indians Asst. Hitting Coach, who returns to the Rays organization as Cash’s new third base coach in 2018.