Inbox: Will LoMo be back with Rays in 2018?

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I’m a Rays fan. The last two seasons, I see the manager as the No. 1 problem. When will the administration change the manager?
— Adolfo B., York, Pa.

I’ve received quite a few emails blaming the Rays’ lack of success on manager Kevin Cash. And, as I’ve said in the past, I don’t see him as being the problem. Of course, there have been a couple of changes made already, as Charlie Montoyo will take over as bench coach and Kyle Snyder will take over as pitching coach. When I say I don’t see Cash as the problem, I try and rack my brain for things that he’s done wrong as far as in-game decisions or the way he handled a player, and I haven’t been able to come up with anything. I talked to a few players off the record prior to the end of the season, and to a man, they liked Cash and the job he’s doing. Remember, Joe Maddon didn’t have a winning season until his third season on the job.

Hydration is important in baseball. But wouldn’t it be better if fielders weren’t chewing gum and blowing big bubbles? Seems there’s a lack of focus and I’ve noticed a number of infield errors that could be attributed to that behavior. Bubble gum blowers come across as a bit too nonchalant, too. Thank you.
— Steven C., Orlando

Well, Steven, I took your queston to Chaim Bloom, and the Rays vice president of baseball operations smiled. He then told me they like their players to be relaxed. So I don’t think he’s a believer in the powers of taking away the players’ bubble gum. I wonder if that would be a union issue.

Will I see Mallex Smith as part of the Rays’ main club in 2018? He has speed, decent bat, best bunter on the team.
— Ellis H., Valdosta, Ga.

Smith showed an interesting skill set in his first year with the Rays, in which he split time between the Rays and Triple-A Durham. I believe he’ll go to Spring Training as a left-field candidate, who could also back up Kevin Kiermaier in center field. But I don’t believe they will give him the left-field job heading into camp. I’ll be surprised if they don’t have several candidates for the left field and extra outfield spots. How they go forward with Corey Dickerson will play into the equation, too. The Rays like the way he played left this past season, so he’ll likely get some reps out there, as well as at DH.

Smith's RBI triple

I’ve been a loyal Rays fan for 10 years. Every year it always comes down to money. I realize some of the players wouldn’t re-sign if they could. But always blaming money when a new stadium would really help. I’m a senior and it’s not an easy trip for me, but I try to get to as many games as I can. A new stadium is crucial.
— Bonnie B., Wimauma, Fla.

Yes, Bonnie, the Rays share your opinion that a new stadium would improve the whole operation by bringing into play additional revenue streams, while also establishing a more central location for fans wanting to attend the games.

Will Matt Duffy ever play for the Rays?
— Mike H.

Duffy had a difficult season. Not only did he have to deal with his injury — which did not heal properly, causing him to miss an entire season — but he also had to deal with the background noise suggesting that he couldn’t handle pain, etc. Once he returns (and speaking to Duffy on the final day of the season, he feels he’ll be perfectly healthy in 2018), I think Rays fans will be pleasantly surprised by what he brings to the table.

What will happen with Brad Boxberger in the upcoming season? He always runs into trouble with games on the line, sometimes even costing the game. I don’t think Cash should use him in those tight situations.
— Samir F., Tampa

Boxberger still has great stuff — the same stuff that allowed him to lead the American League in saves in 2015. But injuries and the performances of other Rays relievers pushed him further down the chain of importance in the bullpen. I still believe he’s got the talent to pitch in the late innings. A lot of Boxberger’s fate will depend on who the Rays bring in during the coming offseason.

Bill Chastain has covered the Rays for MLB.com since 2005. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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