- Staff Reporter
Q. Kevin, I think that probably the overriding theme to this series would be how will you guys combat their dominant starting pitching. They’re guys you’ve seen before. Is there anything that you can do differently, or anything you’ve learned or what strategy would you employ to balance that out?
KEVIN CASH: I mean, I think there’s no doubt that their starting pitchers are dominant. We’re going to face a guy that’s arguably the best pitcher for the last decade and a half, two decades. But their offense is right there with them. Certainly, going into this series, look, I don’t think the head-to-head matchup plays too much of a role from this season. But I don’t anticipate us doing too much differently. We’ve just got to go out there and have good at-bats when any of these guys happen to make a mistake or lack an executed pitch, we’ve got to be ready for it.
Q. Kevin, without giving the secret sauce away, players that come to the Rays and Astros, a lot of players get way better. Again, without giving away secrets, how does this happen so consistently?
KEVIN CASH: Well, you’ve got to credit the front offices. I mean, first of all, they recognize these things about some of these players. And then the messaging, the communication that’s involved early on, once you acquire them, there’s something to be said for that. Then I can speak for the Rays, I think our goal is to try to put a lot of these players that we’ve — I’ve said it over and over now, kind of fall through the cracks at times, put them in the best position for them to succeed. And then you’re going to see how that really helps a team overall succeed.
Q. You and A.J. have become friends. Aside from facing each other on the field and getting to know each other that way, is there an entertaining origin story of your friendships?
KEVIN CASH: No. I give A.J. credit. He was gracious to invite me to the All-Star Game. That was pretty cool. I thought A.J. had maybe the best introduction speech to that all-star group, and you’re talking about just unbelievable players sitting in that clubhouse, and he went by, whether first-time all-star, eight-time all-star, every country that was represented, just really, really well done. Then he introduced me and said, Why would we not have him here, because he’s really the only guy in baseball that likes to use 11 pitchers in nine innings. (Laughter.)
Q. Kevin, kind of a two-part question. Along the part about your relationship with A.J., he referred to you guys to a couple of young, poor-hitting catchers when you were coming up.
KEVIN CASH: I was much, much worse than he was.
Q. I guess okay. Your memories of playing here for however long you were here, and the other part of the question was, what are some keys to maybe not neutralizing, but slowing down their offense?
KEVIN CASH: Well, I think the differences, and I played — the organization was great, the coaches were great, Brad Mills was the manager. I think the world of him. Very close relationship with him. You saw a turn when A.J. and Jeff Luhnow came here and the draft picks and how all these things started to come around, they went back to the original Astro colors, which is pretty cool. The similarities for the Rays, I played for the Rays right at the time when the transition started with Sternberg, Andrew Friedman, Matt Silverman. You saw that transition turn. Offensively, how do we combat? Is that what you asked?
Q. You won’t say you can neutralize. Slowing them down, if you will.
KEVIN CASH: We’re built on pitching and preventing runs. For us to win games over the next five, six days, we’re going to have to continue to find a way to do that. It becomes more challenging the deeper you get, and I think anybody could make the argument that this lineup is as thick and deep as any team that’s in the postseason right now. But I don’t think we can pull away from our strengths, and that’s pitching the way we do, we really try to attack hitters to the pitcher’s strengths. We’re not going to worry about what the hitters do well. Bet on ourselves.
Q. Kevin, bullpens always evolve over the course of the year, but you guys really take that to the extreme. Castillo and Roe are the only guys who were with you on opening day. How has the group come together so well and how much confidence do you have in that group right now?
KEVIN CASH: A lot of confidence. I didn’t realize it was Chaz and Diego. That’s pretty amazing. Emilio Pagan deserves a heck of a lot of credit. Nick Anderson, that acquisition, what he’s done. I think when Nick got here, a combination of him and the way he performed really started to gel things. Colin Poche came up, had some ups and downs for a first-year pitcher but we kept throwing him right out there in the thickest situations. Those things that you do in July, August, even in September, you’d like to think they’re going to help you for these situations now. But Emilio and Nick, Emilio hitting his stride and just getting Nick Anderson in there I think was kind of a turning point of consistency.
Q. Kevin, staying on run prevention, how much did it help for the series, the fact that you didn’t have to use Tyler, Blake, and Yarbs yesterday?
KEVIN CASH: Huge. Huge. We’re already monitoring workloads of not so much Yarbs, but certainly Tyler and Blake, had they pitched, we’re taking them out of their five-day routine. Even though Tyler was on regular but is he able to bounce back and pitch Friday or Saturday? Probably not. But we needed to win the game. That’s why we had him there. We had a pretty good sense we were going to try to — if Charlie went out and did his thing, which he did, that we were going to go to our bullpen guys. If something were thrown off course earlier in the game, then Blake and Tyler become options. Appreciate that Charlie went out and made some big pitches when he had to.
Q. I know Morton has been around for a while. You knew some things about him as a person. Is there anything that maybe surprised you about him personally, or just any interesting thing you could tell us about, like, your interactions with him from now until — from when you got him until now?
KEVIN CASH: Baseball-wise or anything? He likes to barbecue. My dad owned a barbecue restaurant for 15 years. We’ve talked barbecue a little bit. The most surprising thing about Charlie, you hear all these things in the off-season, when we’re somewhat recruiting him. You hear what this Astros group says about him. Everybody in baseball he’s come across. Then you hear so much of it, you start to roll your eyes, like there is no way this guy is who he’s being built up to be. And I can tell you, he certainly is. Watching him for six months, it’s really, really impressive. He’s been awesome to be around. What I’ve learned from him, what we’ve learned from him, and what he’s done with not just young pitchers, young players and that calmness that he provides, whether he’s pitching on the mound or just a routine workday for him, it’s helped.
Q. Kevin, two things. First, what’s realistic for Tyler tomorrow as far as pitches and innings and stuff?
KEVIN CASH: Oh, man, what did he do last time? Five ups? Five ups? He’s probably going to come out throwing 103 miles an hour so we’ll take that into consideration. But, look, Tyler’s been really good. I think there’s an opportunity that he can be a little bit better efficiencywise. Performance-wise, he’s been outstanding. But I think six innings is reasonable. But then you’ve got to take into consideration that that lineup they’re throwing out don’t generally allow pitchers to be too efficient.
Q. Going back to your hitters versus your pitchers, especially the younger hitters, they’re a little bit trying to make sure they don’t have it in their head the reputation of those guys precedes them. To look at is what they’re seeing on the field that day, not it’s Justin Verlander, it’s Gerrit Cole, it’s Zack Greinke.
KEVIN CASH: I’ll do that, I can tell you that. I don’t think they will. Honestly, similar to the atmosphere yesterday, embrace it more than anything. Kind of embrace the opportunity. You’re getting ready to go face, in game 1, a future Hall of Famer. That’s pretty cool.
Q. Just to piggyback on the discussion about Morton before, there’s a reputation that the year that he had this year is kind of credited to what the Astros did with him. How do you feel about that?
KEVIN CASH: I think it’s credit to a lot of people. Houston certainly plays a strong part in that. Any time Charlie talks about pitching, he references Brent Strom for good reason. Look at the success they’ve had here. But Charlie, the type of person is he’ll reference people from the Braves, from the Pirates. Certainly, the Rays are deserving of some of those things. But we got the very best version of Charlie Morton.
Q. Kevin, this time of year, sort of the preview analysis of these matchups is, at least part of it centers around, how much does a team adapt to what it does in the regular season to the postseason model? Given the way that you guys use your roster throughout the season, how much different is the postseason for you guys?
KEVIN CASH: Teams are built differently. The Astros are built different than us. They basically run out six, seven, eight core guys. They’ve got their starting pitchers and that’s how they go. We have to utilize our entire roster. The good thing is we get to practice that all season long. We’re not adjusting. We’re not being somebody different. But the way these guys approach it, that’s what’s special about it. From game 1 to game 162, obviously during roster expansion and into the postseason, we’ve stayed consistent being versatile.
Q. Thanks, Kevin.
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