October 7, 2021
St. Petersburg, Florida, USA
Tampa Bay Rays
Pregame 1 Press Conference
Q. Hey, Kevin. Just want to ask you, watching your team throughout the course of the season and what they've been able to do in those last three innings offensively, just how does that experience help you entering the postseason?
KEVIN CASH: Well, we like to think that the last three innings are the highest leverage and most anxiety-filled. I don't know if you can actually say that that -- it's different. We all respect it's different now. You can play in big ballgames. You can play against division rivals, but when you get to the postseason there's more at stake, so I don't know if it does help you.
I like to think our experiences from last two seasons from the guys that have been around playing post-season baseball will help us and the guys that didn't experience that, some of the guys, the veterans can talk about it and just, you know, stay consistent for the younger players.
Q. Hey, Kevin. Could you run through the roster decisions a little bit on who is on and who is off and just what the thought process was?
KEVIN CASH: Yeah. Look, they're all tough decisions. Yarbs off. We need to keep him lengthened out, and felt like our best way to do that, we had enough bullpen coverage. We went with Fleming being the lone left-hander. I think we're equipped with some guys that are right-handed that can be more neutral, to reverse splits against their tough lefties.
Brett Phillips, off. Very tough decision for everything that he has meant to our club this year. And he can -- he certainly has played well and is deserving, but given how I'm very confident we're going to be aggressive with our pitchers and in the bullpen, we wanted to make sure that we added the extra pitcher. And then also, that theoretically, we're going to be facing three lefties, or the potential to face three left-handed starters in this series.
Anybody else that -- Matt Wisler, excited to have him on. When we acquired him, he has been awesome for us. You know, had the injury. I think he actually got hurt up in Boston where he had to walk off the mound. It's been a little bit longer road back than we anticipated, but he seems to have -- with his last two outings of the regular season and then the third live BP on Tuesday, it feels he is in a much better spot, so certainly we welcome him back.
Q. With three days off and, you know, you had some workouts here, do you get a sense everybody is pretty much ready to go and eager to get out there at this point?
KEVIN CASH: Yeah, very much. You appreciate the off-days, the rest, but I think everybody is probably watching the last two nights of baseball, and that gets you excited. Great ballgames that we're ready to play.
You know, the rest was good. It's been a long season. We played, you know, our guys. We ran six in a row, and give the guys credit. In Houston, in New York we were playing every one of those games.
Q. Kevin, you mentioned potentially facing three lefty starters in this series. There was a time this season where that was kind of a struggle for you guys. How much better equipped do you feel like the line-up is now than earlier in the year to handle that?
KEVIN CASH: Yes, better. Erik did a tremendous job. He went out, even before the deadline got kicked off, he goes and gets maybe the best right-handed bat you could possibly imagine in Nelson Cruz. Calling up Wander, adding Jordan Luplow at the deadline. We wanted to beef up our approach against left-handed pitching. It was no secret. I think a little bit was lopsided that we just had some guys that were just not getting it done, but we would like to think it was evened out. But after those additions, it seemed like we started performing much better.
Q. I also wanted to ask about Baz starting tomorrow. It's rare with a guy with his level of experience starting a postseason game. Was that even a debate?
KEVIN CASH: Tell me about it. He showed us enough in his three outings that we felt good about it. The funny thing about Shane is his three outings up here were definitely as good, probably better than anything that he had shown in Durham this year. He really took to the alternate site last year and made himself better, and this year he has just skyrocketed with the strike-throwing and the stuff. Very confident that he is fully equipped to go out there and pitch well against a very good Red Sox lineup.
Q. Kiermaier has been hitting the ball much better the last six weeks. Is there anything specific that you are seeing there that has led to this?
KEVIN CASH: I agree with you, and it's funny. K.K. throughout his career, it seems like he always finds a way to get close to his numbers. He is a model of consistency when the year ends. I'm not going to say it's always consistent throughout the course of the season, but he will find a way to get there, and it's needed.
I think -- the matter of timing. He has worked hard to get himself in better counts. Maybe not expanding so much. A little bit more patient at times, and he has shown the ability here as of late he can beat you pulling the ball, and he can also beat you hitting balls the other way. A lot of line drives the other way, which is very encouraging.
Q. Just want to ask you how you're feeling when you walk out there and just the moments before the game and the excitement, butterflies that you have.
KEVIN CASH: Yeah. I'll have them, that's for sure. I mean, if you are not excited, you don't have a little bit of anxiety and some butterflies, well, I can't speak for anybody else. I know I'll have them, but I'll be excited to watch our guys go play. They have -- they've been one heck of a team to watch all season long. Hopefully we can just continue to replicate what we've done and have a good series.
Q. Thank you so much.
KEVIN CASH: Thank you, guys.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports