Has Rays’ Kevin Cash mellowed over the years?

ST. PETERSBURG — After being ejected three times in his rookie season in 2015 (including on Mother’s Day with his mom Patsy in the stands) and seven times in his first three years, Rays manager Kevin Cash appeared to have softened.

He was thrown just four times over the next four seasons, the last time only after much provocation on Sept. 1, 2020. That was when Yankees relive Aroldis Chapman threw a 101-mph fastball at Rays infielder Mike Brosseau’s head, which to Cash’s notoriety led to commenting on having “a whole damn stable of guys throwing 98 miles an hour.”

After 249 games (regular and postseason) without a throw, Cash was thrown twice in 10 days, on May 22 in Baltimore and on Wednesday in Texas.

Both times coincidentally with Ji-Man Choi on the record – after a strike was called in Baltimore (and Choi was in danger of being kicked out himself, which Cash wanted to prevent) and after a seemingly blatant check swing in Texas.

Choi said he appreciates his manager’s support and means a lot to the players. Cash said he understands, but that aspect might be exaggerated and is no reason to be argumentative.

Perhaps the Rays’ extended offensive struggles had something to do with Cash’s recent vivacity, though bench coach Matt Quatraro said, “There’s a lot of nights when you’re frustrated and you don’t get kicked out.”

Cash said it’s definitely not a change in temperament that’s making him fight more.

“I’m not a big fan of it,” he said. “I think there comes a point where you have to argue and defend your players and defend what you think is right on the field. I don’t think just showing your ass is always the best way to do it to defend your players.

Lou Piniella had some of the most colorful and vibrant throws, but was thrown just nine times in three seasons as the Devil Rays’ crib.

Quatraro, who is closest to Cash during games, said the eighth-year manager has a better understanding of the importance of staying in the dugout and where the line is with each referee based on their personality and vocabulary.

As a student of Cleveland coach Terry Francona, Cash knows that being known for constantly chirping at the Men in Blue (or Black) or having your players do it doesn’t help.

“It’s definitely something we talk about regularly,” Quatraro said. “You see that different managers deal with it differently, whether they stand up for their players or not.”

When Cash is thrown out, he usually goes straight to the clubhouse, often without even pausing to give Quatraro instructions since they’ve been talking throughout the game and are in good sync in their fourth season together. As Cash leaves, the other coaches tell Quatraro things Cash may have asked them to do or consider.

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Does Quatraro ever say anything about cash?

“I told him after the (Wednesday) game, ‘You need to calm down, you need to keep your cool, you can’t keep flicking like this.’ I’d much rather he stayed in the game.”

Among Rays managers, Cash’s 13 sackings are the third most common. Joe Maddon was thrown 37 times in nine seasons, Larry Rothschild 15 times in more than three seasons. Lou Piniella has had some of the most colorful and vibrant casts, but only nine in three seasons of Devil Rays. Hal McRae had seven in nearly two full seasons.

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Ray's pitcher Rich Hill (right) speaks with general manager Erik Neander (left) and manager Kevin Cash during a 2021 pitcher and catcher practice day at Charlotte Sports Park in Port Charlotte.
Ray’s pitcher Rich Hill (right) speaks with general manager Erik Neander (left) and manager Kevin Cash during a 2021 pitcher and catcher practice day at Charlotte Sports Park in Port Charlotte. [ WILL VRAGOVIC | Tampa Bay Rays ]

When asked before Tuesday’s game about Texas starter Martin Perez, who is having a career year at 31, Cash shared an interesting tidbit: In 2011, when he was a 33-year-old, he played in his last season before Triple-A Round Rock Retiring, Cash caught Perez, then a 20-year-old “Super” prospect. That got us thinking, and we clicked through dozens of Baseball-Reference.com sites to see how many pitchers still active in the majors that Cash caught during his big league career complaining about parts of eight seasons with the Blue Jays, Rays, Red Sox, Yankees and Astros. The answer? Three – David Robertson (with the 2009 Yankees), Daniel Bard and Rich Hill (both 2010 Red Sox). There are at least two other cash trapped in the minors who are still active: Darren O’Day and Tommy Hunter.

Cue Alanis Morissette

The baseball schedule was created last summer (and changed only slightly after lockout), while NHL playoff fixtures are a product of regular season scoring and preliminary round wins. Yet somehow the rays and the flash had some ironic crossovers. The Rays played the Blue Jays in the first round while the Lightning faced the Maple Leafs in the first round, opened a series with the Marlins the day after the Lightning finished a sweep against the Panthers, faced the Texas on Wednesday Rangers versus when the Lightning opened the conference finals against the New York Rangers and will be at Yankee Stadium on June 14th when the Lightning could play Game 7 at Madison Square Garden. Under this scenario, both teams would have Monday evening off in New York. Maybe a joint team dinner?

Lightning players celebrate Brayden Point's overtime winner against the Toronto Maple Leafs in Game 6 of the opening round last month at the Amalie Arena.
Lightning players celebrate Brayden Point’s overtime winner against the Toronto Maple Leafs in Game 6 of the opening round last month at the Amalie Arena. [ DIRK SHADD | Times ]

rays growls

Nathaniel Lowe admitted he yelled at Ray’s pitcher Jeffrey Springs after his homer spoke about previous pitches on Wednesday. Special, per video glitches experts @JomboyMedia, which he thought were thrown in his face. … The odds of the Rays winning the World Series increased from 14-1 on opening day to 20-1 on June 1, according to betonline.ag. Shane McClanahan’s Cy Young odds jumped from 16-1 to 7-1. … Randy Arozarena wasn’t really joking when he said Friday the only pitchers he’s particularly aware of are “some (fellow) Cubans and (Yankees ace Gerrit) Cole. … The Texas trip marked a return to the birthplace of Brett Phillips’ “baseball is fun” brand, as he first uttered the phrase on t-shirts and other merch during his breathless post-Game 4 interview of 2020 now (neutral side) World Series: “I didn’t even know I said that at the time. It was brought to my attention later.” … If the Rays ever come to the final negotiations on a new stadium with public funds, Gov. Ron DeSantis’ input might be of interest. … Was good to see Matt Moore, who still pitches (and is kind of only 32), and Seminole High product Bobby Wilson, the catch coach, were among seven former Rays at the Rangers clubhouse. Also infielder/outfielder Brad Miller (who now lives in Tampa); catcher Jonah Heim; Lion; and pitchers Brock Burke and Matt Bush.… Interesting comments from ex-Rays manager Joe Maddon after Shohei Ohtani’s rough start against the Yankees, at least proposing the pitch: “They’re really good at reading pitchers. You are very good at it. … I don’t blame anyone for anything other than being good at it.” … In addition to his Diamonds in the Rough podcast, pitching prospect Cole Wilcox spends time recovering from Tommy John surgery and analyzes college baseball -Tournaments for SI.com. … Mike Calitri’s first job in pro ball (after a short career as a minor league player) was Rays advance scouting coordinator from 2009 to 2012. He joined the Indians as a scout in 2013 and the Phillies as manager of advanced scouting in 2018 before being promoted to the big league staff in 2021 as quality assurance coach. With manager Joe Girardi fired on Friday and a staff reshuffle, he is now the bench coach, a Rob Thomson ejection from officiating a big league game.

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