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October 6, 2021

Kevin Cash

St. Petersburg, Florida, USA

Tropicana Field

Tampa Bay Rays

Workout Day Press Conference

Q. Kevin, just what were your initial thoughts on facing the Red Sox, the team you went 11-8 against. You had that good comeback, the Labor Day comeback, and some other pretty interesting games.

KEVIN CASH: A lot of back and forth. They've made some improvements and some adjustments to the roster. Certainly from the deadline getting Davis and, obviously, Kyle Schwarber, and then you look at a guy like Tanner Houck that is back pitching in different roles, whether it's starter or reliever. He is pretty tough, and Brasier is a guy they've leaned on in their bullpen pretty heavily. The bullpen appears -- has shifted a little bit, rightfully so, because it seems like they're all talented whenever they're called upon.

Q. They seem up to the challenge.

KEVIN CASH: That is pretty consistent any time you face the Boston Red Sox. When you are talking about Bogaerts, Devers, and J.D., not sure what his status is, but the year that Hunter Renfroe has had and Kiki Hernandez, and Schwarber being in. They have a young guy in Dalbec that kind of hovers in the back of their lineup that just has hit a bunch of home runs, so we're going to have to pitch them very well.

Q. Kevin, outside of his obvious talent, what about Shane's makeup gives you confidence that he can withstand and navigate the pressures of being a Game 1 starter?

KEVIN CASH: That's a good question. The best that we can go back on are a couple of his high intensity starts this year. We threw him into the fire last year in the postseason when he had never pitched a regular season game. At the time it didn't feel that great, but maybe that's helping him now, and then Sunday night baseball here against the Red Sox, he performed very, very well, and then watching him navigate through his outings certainly specific ones where there was some adversity seeing him get through the inning and bounce back and kind of hit the reset button and find ways to get deep in ballgames. I mean, it felt like Shane always had pitches left that he could have gone for an extra inning. By design we chose not to do that, but his pitch efficiency was really good. I think over his 25 starts, whatever it is, he continues to learn things about himself and learn about the situation that's presented to him.

Q. Very similar question on Wander. What makes you confident that he is comfortable and ready for this stage, the age that he is?

KEVIN CASH: Talent-wise, he might be the best player on the field. His talent is pretty undisputable. He can beat you so many ways. What we've seen of Wander from day one, you know, he lit this place up with a big three-run homer. Kind of went quiet for a couple of weeks. You know, quiet by the standard that was supposed to be set by him, and then he has taken off. He handles things remarkably well. We marvel at what he does on a daily basis, and as much as, you know, as anybody, there's a lot of guys that really enjoy the bright lights. Wander seems to appreciate it really, really well.

Q. Congratulations on the division title. Wanted to ask you, going back to 2007 there certainly were some games where you were behind the plate for the Red Sox, and Alex was starting on the infield. You have managed against them many times, but can you share some stories about Alex Cora as a teammate?

KEVIN CASH: He is a great teammate. It was special to be a part of that group. Obviously there was a superstar caliber team in '07 and '08. Came up a little short here against the Rays. Wouldn't mind seeing that happen again at this point.

But as far as Alex is concerned, you know, just very informed, very intelligent, baseball intelligent, people-smart. There was a group of us with Alex, Mike Lowell, Sean Casey, and I tried to just be a sponge and learn as much as possible from umpteen years of knowledge, and we can all appreciate how their careers have taken on. Some are doing media, and some are managing. Alex has done a really good job.

Q. A few minutes ago Kiermaier was talking about the influence of Nelson Cruz has had. Not only on the field, but in the clubhouse, especially with the younger guys.

Can you speak a little bit to that?

KEVIN CASH: Yeah, I can speak a lot to that. You hear all this stuff about Nelson from a different -- in a different uniform. Met him a couple of times at All Star games or even in spring trainings. His presence and the way that he carries himself on the field, we all see, but it's in the clubhouse, the little interactions that he has, the subtle interactions. He has not been a guy that has stood up in the room at all this year and really spoke. He has come in and just been a really good teammate. He has been a really big support for all of our players, for our staff, myself.

Talking to Rocco when we acquired him, Rocco said he is going to do a lot of things that you don't even realize he is doing, and I think that has been very fair for the two and a half months he has been here, but there's no -- no secret his addition at the deadline and, obviously, Wander coming about the same time has certainly helped our team become better.

Q. Kevin, two other things: Just what do you anticipate the benefit of the crowd to be, assuming it's somewhat similar to the Astros games in 2019, the next couple of nights?

KEVIN CASH: Hopefully it's a huge benefit.

We've talked about repeatedly all year long that we've just missed fans. You can create a lot of energy through, you know, a team pulling for you and on the flip side we'll be going to Boston, a team that's not really pulling for you, booing you.

Players appreciate that, and I know our fans -- I'm confident our fans are going to show up. That -- those two games in 2019, it's as loud as I have heard. The relay play, the K.K. three-run homer. This big special moments that really can energize a team, and we're looking forward to that starting tomorrow night.

Q. And then as far as Nick and Wisler yesterday. Can you clarify their status at all.

KEVIN CASH: Nothing has been clarified. They both came through it fine. There are still discussions to be had. I'm sure we'll spend -- we're going to go out and work out and probably be on the field for an hour, hour and a half, then we'll go back and see how everybody is. I spoke to Matt this morning to see how he felt, and he said he felt pretty good, so encouraged by that.

Q. Kevin, when you think about just putting the lineup together every day and maybe comparing how your lineup was put together in the last year in the postseason, you didn't have Wander or Cruz last year, and you have better versions of guys like Zunino and Meadows, in what way as a manager do you feel like you had greater depth now than a year ago?

KEVIN CASH: Wander and Nelson, no doubt, but you look at Austin, Yandy, and Ji-man. Going into the postseason none of them had established themselves. They were all coming back from some sort of injury, and there were a lot of question marks. These guys have had now consistent reps. They've pretty much stayed healthy, and I do think whichever way we go, the options that are going to be available on the bench to impact us will be greater than maybe what they were last year just because of the lack of reps that those three in particular had.

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