* Former Blue Jays C Kevin Cash becomes the first home grown player to ever be named as a manager. Cash was an advance scout for the Jays in 2012 and after two seasons as the bullpen coach for the Cleveland Indians is now the new manager of the Tampa Bay Rays.
By Bob Elliott
The Blue Jays were on their final trip of the 2011.
The next-to-last stop was Tropicana Field and as was the norm they were on their way to losing two of three to the Tampa Bay Rays.
One night during batting practice we saw Sportsnet’s Buck Martinez talking to Kevin Cash, the former Blue Jays catcher. We stopped to say hello and as I left Cash asked to “please ask manager John Farrell to come over.”
Farrell was at the far end of the dugout finishing a TV interview. When he was done I told him someone wanted to see him.
“Who is it?” Farrell asked.
“Ah … someone with that I-need-a-job look in their eye,” I told Farrell. “Kevin Cash … know him?”
“Sure, I know Kevin,” Farrell said. They had earned World Series rings with the 2010 Boston Red Sox.
After spending 2011 with triple-A Round Rock in the Texas Rangers system, Cash retired. Farrell hired him as the Jays advance scout for 2012.
Now, after two seasons as bullpen coach with the Cleveland Indians under manager Terry Francona, Cash will soon have ex-players approaching him looking for work.
The Trop in St. Petersburg will be home for the Tampa native.
The Rays hired Cash Friday to replace the departed Joe Maddon, who bolted to the Chicago Cubs after president Andrew Friedman headed to the coast, the house of cards came tumbling down.
Cash has never managed a game in the majors or the minors.
Cash, 37, becomes the first-ever homegrown player from the Jays system — either drafted of signed as a free agent — to manage in the majors.
Since June of 1977 the Jays have drafted 1,569 players, 252 who made the majors either with the Jays or another club and signed 100s others as free agents. Yet, Cash stands alone, the brightest bulb.
The Jays selected 1,436 players (from Tom Goffena, first round 1977 to Trent Miller, 40th round 2014) in June and 123 (Bradford Ross, first round 1977 to Glenn Moore, 15th round, 1986) in the January draft, which no longer exists..
They’ve had 241 (from Jesse Barfield, ninth roud 1977 to Kendall Graveman, eighth round, 2013) from June make the majors from the June draft and 11 (Geno Petralli, third, 1978 to Mark Whiten, fifth, 1986) in January.
Cash wasn’t drafted out of Florida State.
Former Jays scouting director Tim Wilken has the answer.
“It was a team sign,” said Wilken, now an executive with the Chicago Cubs, from Dunedin.
In the old days the Jays were swashbuckling spenders under Labatt ownership. Yet, in 1999 their total budget for June draft was $2.5 million under Belgian brewers Interbrew SA. And No. 1 pick Alex Rios ate up $845,000 US of that.
Jays scouts Ted Lekas, Chris Buckley and Wilken were on Cape Cod that summer watching the best collegians with the Falmouth Commodores in the first game of a day-night doubleheader. Wilken remembers about 75-to-100 scouts leaving the Falmouth game to see Dewon Brazelton face Chris Capuano in an evening match.
“I stayed to look for relievers, I’d seen the others,” Wilken said. “One catcher pulled a hamstring the night before and the other catcher fouled a ball off his foot.”
So Falmouth inserted third baseman Cash behind the plate.
“Kevin sat back there easy, like he’d been there for 10 years,” Wilken said. “I was the only scout there. I suggested to Lekas to keep an eye on him, see what other teams comes to his games.”
Georgia Tech’s Jason Basil and Georgia’s Doc Brooks were the other Falmouth catchers. Basil spent three seasons in the Oakland A’s system. while Brooks played six seasons in the minors with the Arizona Diamondbacks, San Diego Padres, Washington Nationals and Colorado Rockies. Neither made the majors.
Cash spent parts of eight seasons in the majors starting 189 games.
At crunch time the Rockies were offering Cash a $25,00-$40,000 bonus. Wilken wanted to give Cash $60,000, but his budget was gone. Then, general manager Gord Ash decided to take $60,000 from scout Alex Arias international budget for Cash.
“When the time came to sign Kevin no one was around Tampa to sign him — we were all on the road,” said Wilken with a laugh. “So Arias had to drive from Miami to Tampa and give the bonus meant for HIS department.”
Cash made his Jays debut Sept. 6, 2002 under Martinez and played 101 games with the Jays before being dealt to Tampa Bay Dec. 12, 2004. His uncle Ron Cash is the answer to a trivia question. Who was the last second baseman to play for the Detroit Tigers before Lou Whitaker?
Wilken recalled organizational meetings when catchers Darren Fletcher, Mike Matheny and Cash were dissected. The message was Cash should shorten his swing.
In 2012, Wilken was at the Trop, turned to see Cash amongst the scouts.
“Kevin always had a great nature,” said Wilken, “he looked at me and said ‘I know, I know, I should have shortened up.”
And soon to be passed on to the Rays hitters.