Enthusiastic Cash ready to take the helm with Rays

New skipper meets the media at Winter Meetings, discusses coaching staff

Enthusiastic Cash ready to take the helm with Rays

SAN DIEGO -- Kevin Cash managed a chuckle when asked about the number he would wear this season as the new Rays manager.

"Just found out, 16," said Cash, addressing the media at the Winter Meetings. "[The Rays equipment manager] was looking for a single digit, but I've put on some weight since my playing days."

Cash allowed that the realization that he's the team's new manager is "starting to sink in a little bit" adding that he's "just now trying to get on to the baseball side of it."

"It's exciting, but time to get to work a little bit," Cash said.

Silverman, Cash on Cash's weight

Friday afternoon, the Rays named the former "Devil Rays" catcher as the fifth manager in team history. He will succeed Joe Maddon, who ended his nine-year tenure with the team by exercising an opt-out clause in his contract before agreeing to a five-year, $25 million deal to manage the Cubs.

On Monday, Cash fielded questions about if he felt any pressure to be following a manager of Maddon's stature, particularly given his success in helping to mold the team into a winner.

The fresh-faced Cash smiled. "I look at it more as kind of an honor to be following him and what he's done over the course of his career here."

Cash has not talked to Maddon, but added: "I'd love to talk to him. I'm sure I'll get an opportunity here at the Meetings at some point and shake his hand and connect."

Having been on the job for several days, Cash said he has talked to eight to 10 of the current players, and he's talked with the coaches on his staff, which is the same group as last season minus bench coach Dave Martinez.

"Every conversation has been excellent," Cash said. "The players I have contacted, a lot of energy, optimism, that's probably been the most exciting of all of this, connecting with them.

"And then, as far as the coaches that I've talked to, they've been great. I think I've connected with all of them. The guys in the clubhouse. It's an exciting group and they have accepted this whole process and have been extremely generous to my family and I."

As for finding a bench coach...

"You know what, I think that's an ongoing process we're kind of talking through," Cash said. "We're talking about some of the characteristics and qualities that maybe we're looking for. And hopefully that process keeps working itself out through these Meetings and the upcoming days."

Because Cash does not have managing experience, he was asked if he will look for a bench coach with the experience he lacks. Matt Silverman, president, baseball operations, accompanied Cash on Monday, and chimed in on this question.

"It's not a prerequisite for us," Silverman said. "But that's mostly because of the staff we have in place. We have a really good group that works really well together. So whoever we add as a bench coach, or as the open coach, will be someone who adds to the staff. Complements what we have and gives Kevin the backing he needs."

Cash seemed to glow when asked to express what attracted him to the job.

"Obviously, it takes a lot of time," Cash said. "You have to have a lot of passion and energy for it. That would probably be the biggest thing. The connection with the players and the clubhouse. I love being in the clubhouse. Hanging out with the guys. Talking about the game the night before, the next game, playing cards, whatever it is. I love that constant interaction."

Being a Tampa native and understanding the area's connection to baseball -- including the legacy of following Al Lopez, Lou Piniella and Tony La Russa, all Tampa giants who were Major League managers -- also means a great deal to Cash.

"It's kind of incredible," Cash said. "Those names, I would definitely set them apart. But just to be in the same conversation, realizing I've done nothing, those guys have impacted baseball quite a bit. And Tampa is an incredible place.

"Growing up, the hotbed, everything you could probably argue that is as strong an area for the growing of baseball, the competition. So it's exciting to get back there and into that community again."

Packing a world of enthusiasm, Cash appears ready to attack his new job.

Bill Chastain is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.