SAN DIEGO (AP) - Kevin Cash says he is excited, rather than nervous, about replacing Joe Maddon as manager of the Tampa Bay Rays.
Cash, who has no managerial experience, was hired Friday to take over a team that made the playoffs four of the last seven seasons under Maddon.
“I look at it more as kind of an honor to be following him in what he’s done over the course of his career here,” Cash said Monday at baseball’s winter meetings.
“I think it’s great. You embrace it. I’m always somewhat appreciative what he’s been a part of, a big piece, and kind of built and now the opportunity to join that group. We all know what a job he’s done, what he’s meant in the Tampa Bay community. He’s moved on but you still value and respect everything he’s done.”
Maddon exercised an opt-out clause in his contract on Oct. 24 and was hired as the Chicago Cubs’ manager a week later.
Cash, who turned 37 on Saturday, is the youngest active manager in the majors.
Cash was a catcher for parts of eight big league seasons, including a brief stint with Tampa Bay in 2008. He was Cleveland’s bullpen coach the last two seasons under Terry Francona. Cash played for the Red Sox for parts of three seasons while Francona was their manager.
He hopes to talk to other managers this week about what to expect.
“I’d be open to hear anything, any opinion,” he said. “I think I have somewhat of a perspective but you’re always willing to take more and learn more.”
Matt Silverman, the president of baseball operations, said the Rays are stable enough to take the risk with someone with no managerial experience.
“There certainly is risk,” Silverman said. “We talked about it. It was one of the questions that came up over and over again in the interview process. The risk of the first-time manager, the games speeding up, doing things for the first time, while we expect to compete. It’s different if we were rebuilding. It’s different if this were the 2005 Devil Rays. It’s not. We have a club that can compete for a playoff spot. We recognize that risk and felt good about taking on an inexperienced manager, because of Kevin’s personality, because of his experience, and because of the coaching staff and clubhouse that we have in place.
“But he does get to forge his own path here. He’s not bound by constraints. He has to come in and put his mark on things, knowing that we have a really good situation already.”
Tampa Bay went 754-705 in nine seasons under Maddon. It made the playoffs four times, won two AL East championships and the 2008 AL pennant - all while operating under the constraints of one of baseball’s lowest payrolls.
The Rays finished 77-85 in 2014, ending a stretch of six consecutive winning seasons. Maddon was under contract through 2015, but exercised an option to leave when talks on a new deal broke down.
Cash, a Tampa native, said the text messages and phone calls of congratulations are still coming in.
“I get a text message and a picture about every 30 minutes from my mom where there’s something on the billboard at the high school, congratulations,” he said. “Saturday, the 6th, my birthday, I think my mom cried from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., good tears.
“So it’s been an exciting time. It’s probably more beneficial that she was there and got to be a part of it kind of by herself, a lot of attention. So good for her and the rest of the family that’s been down there.”
Cash still has to hire a bench coach and familiarize himself with the roster. Nothing too heavy, yet, like figuring out who’s batting leadoff.
“I’m trying to get everyone’s names right now,” he said with a laugh.
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