"I'm thrilled for Kevin that he's going to get the opportunity," Indians general manager Chris Antonetti said. "He made a huge impact in his time with us. I think the Rays made a great choice and that he'll thrive in that role and be a very successful manager.
"Kevin does an extraordinary job of connecting with people and working to figure out the best way to help them and put them in position to be successful. That's a great attribute of a leader."
Cash, who will turn 37 on Saturday, last played in the Majors in 2010 after an eight-year career as a catcher with the Blue Jays, Rays, Red Sox, Yankees and Astros. Following his career as a player, Cash shifted into a scouting role with Toronto in '12 before joining manager Terry Francona's coaching staff in Cleveland prior to the '13 season.
Shortly into his tenure with the Tribe, Cash played a major role in convincing Cleveland to acquire catcher Yan Gomes from the Blue Jays. Gomes has since developed into one of baseball's top young catchers, and the Indians have him signed to a long-term deal that could last through 2021. Cash also played an important part in pitcher Carlos Carrasco's impressive turnaround last season.
"Cashy instantly brought a lot," Francona said. "Everybody kept saying, 'Well, he's new.' Or, 'He's inexperienced.' Well, not really. The game is the game. ... He's got a really good presence. He's not afraid to laugh at himself, but he knows how he feels and he has a very genuine way of communicating with players."
Along with a pile of respect came friendly jokes.
During their two years together with the Indians, Francona routinely made playful jabs at Cash's expense -- reminding the catcher of his .183 batting average in the Majors or shooing him away from the team's hitters in the clubhouse. Outside of his office in Cleveland, Francona has a large poster hanging on the wall in the hallway with the words "Legends of the Game" next to a picture of Cash.
Francona laughed when asked what would become of that picture.
"Maybe as a gift we'll send it down to Tampa," Francona quipped.
Antonetti said working under Francona also benefited Cash's learning curve.
"He's constantly seeking to learn and get better and improve," Antonetti said of Cash. "He's the one that's always asking questions, whether it's to [Francona] or [first-base coach] Sandy [Alomar Jr.] or our medical staff or our strength-and-conditioning staff or our analytics group. He's always trying to learn and improve.
"I think being around Tito and having a chance to observe how Tito leads -- not only in his role in the clubhouse, but leads within his role in the organization -- is only going to benefit Kevin, as he's now charged with those same responsibilities."
On a conference call with reporters, Cash raved about Francona's leadership.
"I could talk all day about Tito and his philosophy and what I'm going to pull from him and stuff like that," Cash said. "Besides his relationships and the way he communicates with players, probably be the consistency, the energy level he comes to the ballpark with every day. Baseball's obviously a long season. There's plenty of ups and downs in there.
"But to get to watch him day in and day out and how he presents himself, to the organization, to the players, that model of consistency he shows is something I very much value in what I've learned from Tito."
Francona said it went both ways.
"I've had so many people today keep saying, 'Cashy learned this from you,'" Francona said. "It goes the other way, too. He made us all better."
Antonetti said the Indians have been preparing for the possibility of losing Cash for the past few weeks. Earlier this offseason, Cash was a finalist for the managerial vacancy with the Rangers, who hired Jeff Banister for that job. After Maddon opted out of his contract with Tampa Bay and was hired by the Cubs, Cash was quickly added to the Rays' list of candidates.
"[Cash] has the attributes you look for in a leader," Antonetti said. "It was only a matter of time."
"I think he kind of blew [the Rays] away," Francona added. "It's not surprising, because he was so well prepared."
The Indians' task now is replacing Cash on the coaching staff. Antonetti said Cleveland has a list of internal candidates, but the GM did not go into specifics.
Some possible internal options include Jason Bere and Charles Nagy, who are special assistants with the baseball operations staff, as well as Triple-A manager Chris Tremie and Double-A manager Dave Wallace (both former catchers), and Minor League pitching coordinator Ruben Niebla, who was the Tribe's interim pitching coach briefly in 2012.
"We've spent some time talking about it already," Antonetti said. "We do have a list of internal candidates that we'll consider. We'll determine whether or not there are any external fits that we also want to include in the process, and look to try to get resolution as soon as reasonably possible."