Cash, Francona display strong bond in reunion

Cash, Francona display strong bond in reunion

CLEVELAND -- Friday night's Rays-Indians contest marked Kevin Cash's return to Cleveland, where he spent the past two seasons as the Indians' bullpen coach under Indians manager Terry Francona.

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The Rays hired Cash on Dec. 6, 2014, to be the manager to follow Joe Maddon. Cash and Francona were close during Cash's stay in Cleveland and the pair remain good friends.

"I'm not even sure where to start," said Francona when asked about Cash. "He's such a special guy. He impacted everybody here, myself included. He's one of the most special people I've ever come across in the game, and I've been so lucky because I've come across so many good people. He's really special. We miss him. We're happy for him, but we miss him."

Cash allowed that he was excited to be in Cleveland for the three-game series.

"Obviously, Tito's a big part of it, but everybody here, the organization just treated me so well, my family," Cash said. "This will be a special three days. Especially getting to see all the players. A lot of buddies over there I'm looking forward to seeing. I will spend the next couple of days catching up with a lot of people."

Cash served as a backup catcher for the Red Sox when they were managed by Francona. Reporters asked Cash if he would be a manager if he had not crossed paths with Francona in Boston.

"Yeah, you never know," Cash said. "But when we did, it seemed like we hit it off. I learned so much from him. Just the way he treated, not just me, but everybody in the Boston orgnization. It just really stood out, maybe more than some other managers I played for."

While each manager respects the other, the fun the two have shared and continue to share was apparent.

When explaining why he hired Cash when he first got hired as the Indians manager, Francona took a playful shot at the light-hitting Cash.

"I saw the way he handled himself as a backup catcher, I saw the presence he had in the clubhouse that was way more than a backup catcher who's hitting .140 when he was hot should have," Francona said.

When asked how Cash has "imprinted" Rays players, Fracona offered a compliment delivered with another zinger.

"I wish that they were not taking his demeanor, I wish they were taking his swing," Francona said. "You can tell they bought in, they're very aggressive, they're very youthful in some places, but they're getting after it. He goes to the bullpen a little early, he matches up.

"I think one of the misnomers was how much he learned. I probably learned as much from him just because he's so good. You hire good people and they make everybody better. He helped me a ton, way more than he probably ever knew."

While Cash talked to reporters in the visiting manager's office he was twice interrupted by Francona calling then hanging up. The Rays manager said he arrived to Progressive Field just before noon on Friday.

"I got here and Tito was already texting me, like, 'you don't come early any more,'" Cash said. "He was here just before 11, so Tommy Topper."

Francona said that he watches the scoreboard and if the Indians are losing and so are the Rays he feels like he's losing a double-header.

"I'm doing the exact same thing," Cash said. "That's a credit to all of the guys over there."

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