Tampa Bay Rays Begin Off-season with Overhaul of Coaching Staff

TORONTO, ON - APRIL 30: (From L to R) Tampa Bay Rays coaches Jim Hickey and bench coach Tom Foley (Photo by Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images)
TORONTO, ON - APRIL 30: (From L to R) Tampa Bay Rays coaches Jim Hickey and bench coach Tom Foley (Photo by Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images) /

Changes are inevitable and for the Tampa Bay Rays change is coming as they have begun their off-season moves by overhauling their coaching staff with the departures of Tom Foley, Jim Hickey and Jamie Nelson.

Two of the longest tenured coaches for the Tampa Bay Rays, bench coach Tom Foley, pitching coach Jim Hickey and assistant hitting coach will not be part of manager Kevin Cash’s coaching staff in 2018.

Changes began on Monday with the news of Foley and on Tuesday, the Tampa Bay Rays followed that up with the Hickey and Nelson. Not long after the Rays made the announcement of these changes, Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times reported that Kyle Snyder, pitching coach of the Durham Bulls would replace Hickey and the current third base coach Charlie Montoyo will replace Foley as the bench coach.

Cash praised Foley for his work and sited that the changes were necessary, specifically as Montoyo’s experiences as a minor-league manger would be an asset in the long run and reiterated that Foley will remain “very, very much involved” with big-league team.

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“I managed so many games that I have an idea about what’s going to happen and stuff,” Montoyo said. “Kevin trusted me. With Tom next to us, we’d talk about what’s going to happen, and that happened a lot. … So if he asked me questions, I answer them, or I say, ‘We could do this, because of that,’ and it worked out pretty good for us.”

Since 1997, Montoyo has been an integral part of the Tampa Bay Rays organization first as their manager of the Princeton Devil Rays and working his way up through their minor league system managing at every level.

Prior to becoming the Rays third base coach in 2015, Montoyo served as the Durham Bulls manager where he had only one losing season in his seven years as manager. Additionally, helped guide the Bulls to two International League Championships (2009, 2013), seven division titles and one Triple-A National Championship (2013).

"“I am so grateful to Fo, Hick and Nelly for all of their contributions to our major league club. They are tremendous coaches and even better people, and they’ve had such positive impact throughout the Rays organization. I’m glad that Fo and Nelly will have new opportunities to help the Rays, and I will always appreciate my time with Hick and wish him the best. At the same time, I’m excited for what Kyle will contribute to our staff, and for the wealth of experience that Charlie will bring to his new role.” – Kevin Cash"

Foley who has been a member of the coaching staff since 2002 and Cash’s bench coach since 2015 is leaving for another position in the organization. At this time, there is no information regarding what type of position will hold in the organization.

Foley told Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times that it was a mutual agreement between Foley, Cash and team officials. “They were looking to make a change and I wanted to make a change and pretty much contemplated a lot of things this year as the year was going on, it’s worked out great for both sides, I think. And I’ll start a new chapter in the Rays organization again.”

The longest tenured coach in team history, Foley began his Rays career prior to the first June Draft in 1996 as field coordinator, a position he held through the 1999 season. After two years as their director of minor-league operations, Foley moved up to the then Devil Rays as a member of manager Hal McRae’s coaching staff in 2002. From 2002 until 2014, Foley was the Rays third base coach, a position he held until moving into the dugout alongside Cash as his bench coach.

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However, with the changes that are likely forthcoming with the Rays pitching staff, the Rays felt that this is “the right time” to try something different and thus the promotion of Snyder. The Rays did the same last year, when they departed ways with Derek Shelton as their coach after seven years, citing the need for a different voice.

GM Erik Neander said it was not a matter of Hickey not working well with young pitchers or anything philosophical, but that Snyder had a big impact on the Rays young guns during his six years in the organization.

“I think that Kyle Snyder has had a really big impact on a lot of our young pitchers,” Cash said. “We have an opportunity going forward with a core group of young pitchers. The ones who are already here, and the ones who are very close, knocking on the door. And Kyle has had his hand in their development along the way.”

“I felt going forward the best decision for the major-league coaching staff — with also Hick’s understanding, support and buy-in to this… was that Kyle lead that group and make us better for it,” said Cash.

The Rays are the only organization that Snyder has coached for since joining them in 2012, as working his way through the Rays minor league system. First as pitching coach for the Hudson Valley Renegades (Short-Season A), then to Class-A Bowling Green Hot Rods (Class-A) in 2013 followed with a stint as pitching coordinator in 2014 before landing in Durham in 2015.

During his three seasons in Durham, the Bulls pitching staff posted a 3.61 ERA and this past season they set a minor-league record for single-season recording 1,421 strikeouts.

Drafted by the Kansas City Royals, Snyder spent parts of five seasons with Kansas City (2003-2006) and the Red Sox (2003-2008). In 2007 as a member of the Red Sox and a teammate of Cash, Snyder pitched 54.1 innings earning a World Championship.

With a year remaining on his contract, Hickey had no idea that this was coming. When he met with Cash and the front office on Tuesday, he figured it was to talk about their plans for the pitching staff next season.

“Going forward we probably had a little bit of a difference of opinion on the strategies employed to get the most out of our pitchers,” Hickey said. “I only had one year left on my contract and I wasn’t 100 percent on board with the direction, so we simply agreed to mutually part ways one year prior than we probably would have anyway.”

Considered one of the best pitching coaches in the game and well respected, Hickey is known for his work with young pitchers and has been highly sought after by veteran relievers in hopes of reviving their careers.

Hickey “helped bring a lot of success to the Rays,” said Cash. As the Rays pitching coach, he helped shape the careers of starters David Price, Chris Archer and numerous others as well as transitioning Wade Davis and Alex Colome from starter to reliever.

As well, during his Rays tenure they ranked among the American’s League’s best in shutouts with 127, the pitching staff ranks second in ERA at 3.95, have held opponents to a .247 batting average, have recorded 13,988 strikeouts and had a 1.28 WHIP.

"“Hickey is one of the most intellectual people I know. He’s also one of the best people persons I know. The combination of his ability to analyze and apply information, as well as communicate to his players is what causes him to enhance pitchers careers, young and old. From him helping me prepare prior to every major-league start I’ve made to our wide ranging chats after practice, on the plane, over a meal, I’m going to miss many many things about Hickey and his influence on our organization,” said Chris Archer."

In 2013, Jamie Nelson joined Joe Maddon’s staff as a major league coach and assisted Derek Shelton as hitting coach, while also working with the catchers. Prior to his major league coaching duties, Nelson spent five seasons as the Rays minor league catching coordinator and has been with the organization since 2000. At this time, the Rays are working on a new role for him within the organization.

Next: Big Decisions on Rays Arbitration Eligible Players

First-base coach Rocco Baldelli, hitting coach Chad Mottola and bullpen coach Stan Boroski will all return.

Editor’s Note: The Rays PR Department has provided some of the information for this article