Winter Meetings interview with Kevin Cash

Q. We'll start with what you can't talk about, what about Wilson Ramos?
KEVIN CASH: He's an exciting player. Obviously nothing has been formally announced and we are going to stay pretty vague about that, it's kind of our policy. As we've said throughout the entire off-season, we've kind of been in the market looking for catching, and he's a guy among many that we've discussed and we like a lot of things that he's capable of doing.

Q. Along those hypothetical lines, what are some of the things that a guy like Wilson Ramos does that you might like?
KEVIN CASH: Obviously the offensive profile; the fact that he's gone out, understanding that he had an injury, but before, prior to that, he had gone out and caught over a hundred games, I think, a couple years, back-to-back. To find those guys that are capable, and then showing a track record of being able to do that, you put yourself in a special category, because this game is continuing to evolve and change, and you just don't see that type of catcher, or that many of them, that can go out and contribute that much.

Q. Just one more thing on him. If you were to get a guy like that, who is a veteran, who can also have a good read on your pitching staff, which is always really important?
KEVIN CASH: Yeah, look, if we were able to get a guy like that, like you said, he's a guy that comes with some history of catching some really good pitchers. We have some good pitchers. So I think we'd be confident that that would be a real positive balance for our club.

Q. Home runs were up this year a lot, particularly throughout depth of lineups. Does that have any impact on how you manage a game?
KEVIN CASH: No, I don't think so. But I agree, there were home runs that were up. I think our pitchers probably caught the brunt of it more than what we would like. You know, I think for the most part, the Rays, we consider our ballpark to be a pitcher's ballpark. I don't know if it always played like that this past year.

I mean, you look at Chris Archer's season and you take away ten home runs and he basically had the exact season that he had the year before when we were talking about how special he was; he's still very special. Where those ten home runs came from, I don't think it's all -- nobody quite has to find -- I'm sure a couple mislocated pitches, but it did trickle out throughout the American League that we saw quite a bit. There were a lot of what appeared to be fly balls getting out of the ballpark.

Q. But nothing strategically, no impact on your staff?
KEVIN CASH: No, I think if you're managing to try to avoid the home run and you get caught doing that too many times, it's going to eventually -- it's going to burn you.

Look, lineups are built these days where I think most everybody in the lineup is capable of hitting a home run. It's part of the game. You just kind of follow that along, knowing that it's possible.

Q. You're trying to pick up some wins in the standings. You've talked about you can't just hit the table and have the same players get the 25 wins you need. How much harder is it going to be after what Boston did yesterday?
KEVIN CASH: Well, I mean, you know what, they acquired a really, really good pitcher. The nice thing about Boston is they have already got a bunch of really good pitchers.

I love the way our guys kind of rose to those challenges throughout the course of the year. The other left-hander they have that we all know really well is pretty special, too. We had some really good games against him. Chris Sale is obviously as talented as anybody in the game, and he's going to present challenges. But it's something that I think our guys will be excited about. It will just add to -- kind of add to the competition in the AL East. It is what it is. That's how it works.

Q. In an ideal world, what would be a good profile for this outfield bat, DH kind of guy you're looking for?
KEVIN CASH: Well, I think there's a couple different options, because mainly, with the flexibility of Corey Dickerson and Souza, to an extent. We know KK is going to be in center field, and Souza and Corey, are going to be -- primarily they are going to be out there. They are going to get some DH at-bats.

Personally, I like the speed factor, and a guy that is capable of playing some center field. I mean, we all saw what took place when KK got hurt. He's a special player. We're not going to go find Kevin Kiermaier-type defense to fill in, if there's an off-day here or there or on injury. But to have a guy to come in to kind of hold center field down would be great.

Q. Rays have so many good pitchers and rumors one of them might go in a trade. Do you imagine that because they are probably going to sign Wilson Ramos, that means probably that they don't have to wait too much in the future and you don't have to trade a specialist? What do you think about that?
KEVIN CASH: As a manager, you don't want to trade any of them, because what we've seen the last two years, you can never have enough starting pitching, and we do have a talented group. You know, we've got a good group of guys that are going to come back and they're going to be hungry to perform like they know they are capable of. That being said, I mean, that's what we get calls about.

Leading up to the Winter Meetings, during the Winter Meetings, everybody wants to talk about our starting pitching, because it's so valuable and it's so tough to find. It's a luxury for us to be able to have that, but I don't want to see any of them go.

Q. Looking at your bullpen for next year, how important is it to be able to build from the top down, having Boxberger back healthy and Colome?
KEVIN CASH: What Alex Colome did last year we talked about quite a bit. He put himself in a position; he was successful; he really established himself as having an elite season. We have every anticipation that he is going to come back in and repeat that.

Brad Boxberger is a guy that somewhat had a lost of year, simply due to injuries. We look forward to kind of him regaining his All-Star season the year before, and even the 2014 season where he was as dominant as anybody.

It will be nice to have Box come in there, be healthy, not managing injuries and rehabbing; that takes a toll on a player. Especially when he gets hurt in Spring Training, he rehabs, he comes back, he gets hurt day one when he gets reactivated. His whole season was basically rehabbing. That's not a very good way to go about having success. So we're looking for better health for him.

Q. And when you're putting your bullpen together this spring, obviously usually bring in a lot of the veteran guys with the Minor League deal invite, but are you looking more for strictly talent, or do you like to mix that in with different looks?
KEVIN CASH: That's something that we're discussing right now. I mean, obviously the talent plays. We've predominately built our pitching staff, and, taking aside the starter, is kind of a lot of fly ball pitchers. We've seen the ground ball pitcher can really be effective in the bullpen, especially when you're talking about short spurts to come in and get a big out in a big situation.

Saying that, those guys are really tough to come by. Right now the market for relievers, there's some really interesting names out there, and I know our guys are doing everything they can to kind of sift through that right now and figure out what's our best fit for our club going forward.

But there's going to be a lot of opportunity in the bullpen. I think we all know that come Spring Training that will be one area that it will be a very, very healthy competition.

Q. Along the line of ground ball pitcher, also you've mentioned maybe some higher velocity, try to add some velocity?
KEVIN CASH: We talked about this throughout the year. There's no doubt when you ask hitters, there's something to be said for a guy that's warming up and bringing the 96, 97, 98 miles an hour with power. You want the guy to be able to command the ball. If you're throwing 98 and you have no idea where it's going, you'll real soon get exposed.

That velocity opens maybe your margin for error and helps you have some success, especially in those leverage situations.

Q. How do you go about setting up that competition in the spring, because obviously you've got to get in shape for a certain part. Is it just a late spring decision in most cases?
KEVIN CASH: I think you definitely have to make sure that you don't force the issue to where you risk anybody getting injured. Nobody is going to make the club or be in competition throwing their first bullpen or the first live B or even the first couple innings during games. The nice thing about this year is we have the WBC and it will lengthen things out and we will have time to get some extra looks at guys.

I think you be up front and honest with them and say, listen, for the first couple weeks, we want you to get ready, put yourself in a situation to where you can compete for the last two, three weeks of spring.

Q. During the post-season, the Indians, the bullpen usage got a lot of play. Sort of flew under the radar with so many curveballs they threw against Toronto, and particularly against the Cubs. What are your thoughts on attacking with a scouting report, pitch usage?
KEVIN CASH: The scouting report helps, but I think if you go back and look at some of those pitchers, maybe that day or that month, that might have been their best pitch that they had going, so they pitched off the breaking ball.

Look, Toronto we all know is a very potent lineup, and with the guys -- you've got to give different looks. I give Cleveland credit and the rest of those pitching staffs in the post-season. It was interesting to watch how they just evolved real quickly and adjusted to some things.

You know, the heavy breaking ball usage, it kind of makes sense. You watch all your long, you watch those guys in Toronto's offense, and they don't miss fastballs, so it makes a little bit of sense.

Q. What was your first reaction yesterday when you saw or heard what Boston did?
KEVIN CASH: No, it helped -- our marketing department can now figure out when to do throwback jersey day (laughter). So we're good.

Q. From a baseball standpoint, a manager that has to face them as many times as you will, what was your first --
KEVIN CASH: It's a challenge. I think that we always, being in the American League East, you know, I think teams that are in it would say that's the best division in baseball and most competitive. There's a lot of back and forth, and he's going to add to that. Boston was a very, very talented team before that acquisition. I think it's more business as usual.

It's going to be a good situation, because let me tell you, when you go face Chris Sale and you're not in the division with him and you see him once or twice a year, it's not that fun. The hope is we're going to get to see him a bit more and have guys get comfortable and make adjustments.

But when you see him -- if you see him in May and then you don't see him again till September like the last couple years, it becomes very difficult.

Q. Anything new with Duffy and --
KEVIN CASH: No. No, they are still progressing really, really well.

Q. At the end of last year, you were maybe a little unhappy with how the season finished. You see the White Sox admit they are going to do a rebuild, trading Chris Sale, and with an acquisition like Ramos, it seems like you're not doing that, just trying to remain competitive to win more games. Is that encouraging to you?
KEVIN CASH: Oh, definitely. I think what helps us is our starting pitching. We have a lot of options, and as long as you have those options and that flexibility, you'd like to think, or in theory, you're going to remain competitive being able to roll out a pretty good starting pitcher every day.

Q. And I guess what I was trying to get at, that's got to be important to you. You've had two years where you haven't had --
KEVIN CASH: Last year, there was no doubt, I was frustrated, probably wore it a little bit too much visibly. Our players were frustrated.

We felt coming into last year that we had a better team and should have performed better, and we did not, and that's disappointing. We're kind of cleaning the slate here this off-season and coming into Spring Training a little bit hungrier, more hungry, and pull some positives. I mentioned a couple times, we like the way a lot of guys finished up, especially on the offensive side. Let's see if that carries over and see if we can all get out of the gates strong.

Q. You would like to get to the winning side of things.
KEVIN CASH: That would be good, yeah.

Q. How hard is it looking at last year's team and not overreacting; trying to figure out what was the good part of these guys and what can be salvaged and what can go forward and what needs to be improved? How hard is it to figure that out?
KEVIN CASH: I don't really think it's that hard. Kind of picking apart our season last year, KK's injury played a huge role. You have to overcome injuries, there's no doubt about it. When KK went down, for whatever reason, it seemed like our starting pitching kind of all went in a little bit of a funk at one time.

You can manage, a team can manage a pitcher or two going through a little bit of a slump, but when it seems like four or five of them kind of hit their rough patches in the season at the same point and you didn't have your best defensive player out there, it made it very difficult.

Other than that, there were some bright spots. But we know that injuries, every team has them. We've got to be able to overcome them. You know what, maybe somehow when guys go into their slumps or dry spells, space it out a little bit to where it's not clumped together where the whole staff does it at once.

Q. Is there anything you personally learned over the last two years that has not gone as planned?
KEVIN CASH: Yeah, I mean, that's another conversation, but, yeah, I've learned plenty, and continue to learn.

I think that continuing to have the communication with the players and the balance of what works with some guys and not with others; I've made mistakes on how I've tried to approach communicating with players and how we've handled things. And as long as you are continuing to learn, you're being honest about it and doing some right things along the way.

But to answer your question, the communication is ever-evolving, and that's the thing that you learn, but you've also got to continue to learn.

Q. You said you desire consistency a lot last year, the team was going up and down. A lot of that had to do with the injuries the team was battling. Other than staying healthy, what do you think will help improve the consistency moving forward next season?
KEVIN CASH: Well, I think you look at a team like us, you talk about people moving all around; that's what we're going to do. We're going to maximize our roster. Some teams are capable of going out and throwing out nine players and saying, here, go play for the bulk of the season at this spot.

That's not our style. We're going to try to maximize our roster. We're going to play a couple guys and all be looking to see if this guy can help us for X number of games at this position, think a little bit outside the box.

I don't think that's something that we should, you know, keep in the back of our mind or prevent us from being consistent. It's our job as an organization, it's our job as coaches, to get those guys acclimated and comfortable doing that in Spring Training to where when they get the opportunity to kind of move around, they feel consistent, and that will in turn lead to our overall consistency.

Q. Any early winter thoughts for your batting order next year?
KEVIN CASH: No. Longo is going to hit third. (Laughter).

I'm ready for this to get over with so we can start talking a little bit more about that kind of -- the in-game management, the prep of Spring Training. Those are exciting times. I understand this is a big part of the business and our front office and along with 29 other front offices are working incredibly hard right now to make their organizations better, but it does get fun when you start talking about your team.

Q. When you get a little bit better picture?
KEVIN CASH: Exactly.

Q. As the longer spring, having some guys in the WBC, there will be a little bit of disruption. Do you just have to deal with that part of it?
KEVIN CASH: I think we look at it, look, it's going to be an opportunity. There are some things that we left the season with knowing that we needed to work on. It's going to give us a chance to get a little bit more fundamentally stronger, really key on some things in Spring Training that we felt that we can improve upon.

Obviously baserunning is one. And you know what? It's going to help a guy like Matt Duffy; that as excited as we are about him, he's coming in and it's going to allow him much more time to get acclimated around the guys. I mean, to Matt's credit, he handled it really well. He comes over, he does everything he can to get back in, but I don't think there was ever any true comfort given the short amount of playing time that he had with us. So that will be great for him.

Q. Erik gave you a compliment yesterday. He was saying, when we asked about you, he said how hard the team was playing. I know you weren't happy at the end, but did you get some satisfaction about seeing how hard they were still playing at the end?
KEVIN CASH: I did. One play kind of sticks out. We won the last game of the year, because Evan Longoria busted it down the line on a strike three miss or passed ball by a catcher. When your best player or one of your best players was playing like that, there's not too much you need to do as a coach or manager because he's setting that tone. I recall Brad Miller kind of saying in the dugout when it happened, that settles it, we're all doing it, he busted it down the line.

The guys take a lot of pride in performing. None of us were satisfied. None of us were happy, but none of us felt like there was any shutdown the last game of the season.

Q. He really is the leader, more by maybe show me than tell me so.
KEVIN CASH: I respect Evan's stance on that. Evan does a tremendous job in our clubhouse, and we continue to see him. He continues to get the notoriety for it. It doesn't need to be announced. He can take a guy back in the training room, talk to him privately, and we see that as guys that are around him, we see that quite frequently.

Q. You went out to the Fall League. Who impressed you? I'm sure you saw Honeywell and other guys.
KEVIN CASH: When I went out to the Fall League, I went at the right time, that's for sure, because all of our players really performed well. Honeywell, I think he threw five innings, one hit, five punch-outs. He was outstanding. Justin Williams was really swinging the bat well, Nick Ciuffo.

Probably the guy that really stuck out was Diego Castillo. You come in knowing those names, or had not heard a ton about Diego, and he comes out of the bullpen, he's throwing 98 miles an hour and no one is touching him.

It was a great experience for me to get around some of the guys. I assume some of them there's a good chance will be in camp with us when we announce that. And just to have that relationship already started.

Q. Looking forward to having Chad from the start?
KEVIN CASH: Listen, Chad, I know that was a very difficult decision when it happened, but that last three weeks or month, whatever it was, was very valuable to our players and to Chad. For Chad to be able to pick up the phone, which he's done this off-season and talked to a lot of guys, and not have to introduce himself, already got that out of the way, it's a much more comforting phone call.

I know he's already setting up -- Brad Miller has already wanted to take batting practice. To have that kind of established, I think it will be very seamless come Spring Training.