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Rays finalize 2019 major league coaching staff

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Kevin Cash finds his field coordinator, while adding a “process and analytics” coach and “major league mental skills” coach.

Paul Hoover #78
Paul Hoover, from his Devil Rays days

The Tampa Bay Rays and Manager Kevin Cash today finalized their major league coaching staff for 2019.

Paul Hoover (that mean mug pictured above) has been promoted to major league field coordinator, and Jonathan Erlichman will serve as process and analytics coach. In addition, the Rays hired Justin Su’a as major league mental skills coach.

Hoover, now 42, becomes the second major league field coordinator in club history, following Rocco Baldelli, who filled the newly-created role in 2018 prior to being hired as the Minnesota Twins manager on Oct. 25. He spent the past six seasons (2013-18) as the Rays minor league catching coordinator, after entering the coaching ranks in 2012 as the manager of the Gulf Coast League Rays. The 2019 season will mark his 22nd season in professional baseball and eighth in a coaching or managing capacity.

The former catcher spent 14 seasons playing professionally, including parts of seven years in the majors with the Devil Rays (2001-02), Florida Marlins (2006-08) and Philadelphia Phillies (2009-10). He made his major league debut on Sept. 8, 2001 at Oakland, delivering a pinch-hit single in his first at-bat. He appeared in eight games over his two seasons with the Devil Rays, and batted .250 (25-for-100) in 40 major league games.

Hoover becomes the sixth man to join the Rays coaching staff after playing for Tampa Bay, following Baldelli, Wade Boggs, Kevin Cash, Dave Martinez, and Ozzie Timmons. He was drafted by Tampa Bay in the 23rd round of the 1997 June Draft out of Kent State University. He and his wife, Shannon Cunningham, have two daughters.

Erlichman (left) and Su’a (right).

Erlichman, 28, enters his seventh season with the Rays, and sixth full-time. He spent the last two seasons (2017-18) as director of analytics, overseeing the club’s research efforts and coordinating improvements to decision-making processes. Erlichman joined the Rays as an intern in January 2013, before earning promotions to assistant and then analyst in baseball research and development. He holds a degree in mathematics from Princeton University, and resides in St. Petersburg.

J-Money, as he is called behind the scenes, was spotted in the Rays dugout during Spring Training in 2018 and was profiled by Marc Topkin last February.

Su’a, 36, joins the Rays from the Boston Red Sox, where he served as mental skills coordinator for the past four seasons (2015-18). He is also currently in his third season as mental performance coach for the NFL’s Cleveland Browns. Prior to his time with the Red Sox and Browns, he served in mental conditioning roles at IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla., and for the U.S. Army. A former pitcher at Brigham Young University, Su’a earned his master’s in sports psychology from the University of Utah. He resides in Bradenton with his wife, Melissa, and their three children.