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Erik Neander, Kevin Cash: Rays have some of the answers

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Tampa Bay Times
Tampa Bay Times
Rays manager Kevin Cash and general manager Erik Neander talk to reporters at a distanced in-person media session on Tuesday in Port Charlotte. [ MARC TOPKIN | Times ]

PORT CHARLOTTE — The fact that Rays general manager Erik Neander and manager Kevin Cash sat on the dugout roof and took questions in person from reporters in distanced seating at Tuesday’s spring training-opening media session was news in itself, given the past year’s reliance on Zoom interviews.

Among some of the highlights:

• Information on tickets to exhibition games at Charlotte Sports Park, which start Sunday, will be released on Wednesday.

• Both Neander and Cash see “talent and depth” as the strengths of the team and are quite aware the AL East is getting tougher.

• Cash joked that postseason star Randy Arozarena “better” continue at the record pace he showed in October, but said of course they realize that was a remarkable run.

* Neander said the Rays will take the first month or so of spring to sort out how best to deploy their rebuilt pitching staff, determining what some of the newcomers, including Rich Hill, Michael Wacha, Collin McHugh and returning ex-Ray Chris Archer, are capable of.

• Cash said there could be some “surprise” candidates to replace Blake Snell, who was traded, and Charlie Morton, who became a free agent when his $15 million option was declined. “We understand we are probably not going to be able to replace Blake and Charlie with two other guys, but we might be able to find some ways of replacing all the production and the value they brought to our club with a handful of them,” Cash said.

• Cash said his address to the team in the spring opening was more about introductions and stressing the importance of following the health and safety protocols, including how “being a good teammate falls under that umbrella.”

• They expect Yoshi Tsutsugo, who had a rough first season in the majors in 2020, to be more relaxed and better this season, with plans to play him not only in the outfield but at third base and also at first. “He has worked very, very hard to establish himself as a big part of our team,” Cash said.

• Cash acknowledged the Rays have “a lot” of outfielders and don’t know yet how it will sort out, but put it in the good-problem-to-have category.

• Neander said top prospect Wander Franco benefited from the extended time working with the big-league players and staff as a member of the postseason taxi squad but gave an admittedly “very vague” answer on where Franco, who played at Class A in 2019, would start this season or his timetable to reach the majors.

• Neander said trades of top players, such as Snell, are tough, but he feels “our players fully understand the talent that’s here and how good that we’ve been, and there’s plenty of reason for optimism moving forward no matter the decisions that have been made.”

• Cash said there is no doubt the players are excited and determined coming off last year’s run to the World Series. “We would all sign up for a very similar mindset as to what we showed coming into last spring,” he said. “We’ll take it this spring knowing we just to get a little bit better.”

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