PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. -- Kevin Cash dropped the hammer about midway through Monday's news conference at the Charlotte Sports Park.
The Rays manager was asked if he expected to be playing meaningful games in September, to which he answered, "Yes."
When asked to expand, he did not hold back: "We expect to be playing games in October."
Tuesday morning, the Rays will hold their first spring workout for pitchers and catchers, paving the way for a bevy of activity around the Charlotte Sports Complex on Monday, including the media gathering.
Cash allowed that October baseball was the goal, and the organization and the team, are confident that it's one they can reach.
"With what we've done during the offseason," Cash said, "we're confident with the guys that we had finishing the year. You look at what our strengths are, and I think a lot of people would have agreed that starting pitching was our strength coming into last year. We still feel the same way.
"It was unfortunate we hit a little bump in the road, and they all had it happen at one time. It was a tough month, or a tough 25 days to overcome. So we're optimistic with our pitchers, with our position core."
Backing his contention, Cash said, "You're going to see, there's a lot of guys in that clubhouse who take a lot of pride, not only in their personal performance, but the performance of the team.
"And I don't think anybody last year felt good about anything that last series in Texas. And it's probably motivated some guys, it's driven them to work on some things they need to work on. And I think we're all going to hear that message once we start talking to the players when they come in."
Cash noted that the way the team finished has fueled some of his optimism, as well as the roster for this year's team.
"Matt Duffy's a guy who we didn't get to really see," said Cash about the shortstop who came to the Rays in a trade with the Giants at the 2016 non-waiver Trade Deadline. "We got to know him, and he was great. But we didn't see him healthy. We're anticipating him to work through spring, and be healthy for us and be a huge addition to the defense and the offense."
Cash said he also liked "a couple" of the guys the team brought in to be in the bullpen.
"Shawn Tolleson, he's a guy who was really good for two seasons," Cash said. "Had an off year, dealt with some injuries, but the track record's there that he can be really productive for us.
"The continued maturity of some of these young players. And you compliment them with some of the veterans, with a healthy Alex Cobb and Evan Longoria. There's a lot to be optimistic about."
Bill Chastain has covered the Rays for MLB.com since 2005. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.