FORT MYERS, Fla. — Alex Cora had only 179 plate appearances for the Red Sox in 2008, 17 more than Kevin Cash. They had ample time to watch games from the dugout and share opinions about how different situations were handled by the managers.
Sean Casey and Mike Lowell often joined those conversations.
Now Cash is in his fourth season managing the Rays, Cora is in his first year managing the Red Sox, and Casey and Lowell are analysts for MLB Network.
Lowell has said he wants to manage once his children get a little older, and teams will be interested once he makes that commitment.
“Just the amount of knowledge of those three guys, just to kind of soak it in and hear them. Alex was managing well before his time,” Cash said Thursday before the Rays and Sox played to a 6-6 tie at JetBlue Park.
When the Rays hired Cash before the 2015 season, it helped lead to Cora, Aaron Boone (Yankees), and Gabe Kapler (Phillies) becoming managers this season. Cash is 40, Cora and Kapler are 42, and Boone turns 45 on Friday.
Cash played for the Sox briefly in 2007, then was the backup catcher in 2008. Cora was with the team from 2005-08. Kapler was an outfielder for the Sox from 2003-06 and then the manager of Single A Greenville in 2007.
“It’s cool,” Cora said. “That’s the way the game is going, I guess. One thing about the managing thing, I’ve always said if you’re capable, you’re capable regardless of your age. [Cash] got a great opportunity at a young age and he’s doing an outstanding job there.”
Cash worked as an advance scout for the Blue Jays after he retired from playing, then joined the Indians for two seasons as a coach before the Rays hired him.
The Rays are 228-258 (.469) under Cash in what has been a period of roster transition. Only four players remain from the Opening Day roster in 2015. Righthander Chris Archer, who made his debut in 2012, is the longest-tenured player on the team.
Cash is familiar with what Cora has in front of him as a new manager this season.
“Being able to separate yourself to a degree from the players, coming off the field like we did, there’s a transition,” Cash said. “It works both ways. It can work really beneficially. You have that trust of the player and communication is a little easier. Maybe you have a better perspective of what they’re going through.
“But at the same, I’ve learned over three years that there is a line. You have to be able to separate yourself enough. Alex is going to do great with that because he’s so respected by everybody.”
Cora is taking over a team that likely will have the highest payroll in the game. One of his biggest jobs will be keeping star players satisfied. Cash is working on a plan to use a four-man rotation with relievers picking up the slack. As the Rays rebuild, he has to find a way to compete.
But the concepts he talked about with Cora when they were teammates are the same. They were watching how Terry Francona handled the Red Sox and discussing the pros and cons of every move.
“He was always asking questions,” Cora said of Cash. “I think people started realizing he had a future in the game when he became a scout . . . People started seeing him as a future manager. He was a guy who was always in tune with the game, asking questions. Good baseball conversations.”
Now Cora will be competing against Cash 19 times this season, including the first four games of the year.
“All those conversations and here we are,” Cora said. “He knows the way I think. I know the way he thinks. That’s pretty cool when you’re managing against each other.
“I guarantee you he feels that I have tendencies just talking with me throughout the years. I guarantee you [Boone] feels the same way. But I feel the same way with them. It’s fun.”
Said Cash: “There are some similarities probably. Talking to Alex for those two years, you get a sense of how he views things. I don’t know if that’s going to be an advantage. We’ll see.”
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