Cash-Tito prank wars escalate in series finale

September 2nd, 2018

CLEVELAND -- Indians manager Terry Francona drives a motorized scooter to home games at Progressive Field.

Thanks to Rays counterpart Kevin Cash, the vehicle wound up on the field during batting practice on Sunday afternoon.

And courtesy of Tampa Bay first baseman C.J. Cron, the scooter became an innocent victim in the close friends' prank wars.

Cron hit a line drive to the left of second base, squarely striking the front wheel of Francona's prized possession. It occurred minutes after Cash pulled it onto the diamond and encouraged his players to take aim.

"That's all right, I want him to know it was me," Cash said, laughing. "I was going to put it somewhere where balls are hitting it."

The opening volley in their latest good-natured battle occurred Friday, when Francona's custom dugout seat wound up in the Rays' dugout. Cash claims he was not involved in its acquisition, accusing unnamed Indians pitchers of setting him up.

Cleveland responded to the theft by posting a scoreboard graphic while Tampa Bay was warming up entitled, "How bad is Kevin Cash at the plate?" It detailed the former catcher's career statistics, including a .183 batting average.

Cash spent two years on Francona's staff with the Indians immediately before being hired by the Rays. He also played for him with the Red Sox, making him well aware of the skipper's day-to-day routine, including where he parks his scooter.

Before leaving the scooter on the diamond, Cash fired it up and giddily rode it between the dugouts.

"I have a lot of friends here," Cash said. "A lot. A lot of friends."

Kiermaier update

Center fielder (back spasms) was held out of the lineup as a precautionary measure. The two-time Gold Glove Award recipient made an early exit Saturday after his back locked up running the bases in the sixth inning.

"He wanted to play, but I felt like it was probably best to give him a day, given how sore his back has been lately," Cash said. "Let's see if we can get it to calm down. Hopefully, he's good to go Monday."

Kiermaier said his back discomfort flared up while throwing out at the plate in the second inning. The 100.6-mph rocket tied for the second-hardest outfield assist of the year tracked by Statcast™.

Newcomer

The contract of infielder/outfielder was purchased from Triple-A Durham. He batted .255 with 31 stolen bases, 14 homers and 45 RBIs in 125 games this season, split between the Bulls and Double-A Montgomery.

"Versatility is the big thing, and we've gotten to know him the last couple of springs pretty well," Cash said. "He can play center, he can play short, he can steal a base, he's a really good defender."

Velazquez will become the 21st rookie used by the Rays -- extending their single-season record -- and the 11th player to make his big league debut with them in 2018.

Comeback kid

Outfielder (viral infection) joined the team in Cleveland, one day after completing a rehab assignment with Class A Advanced Charlotte.

He played nine innings in right field for the Stone Crabs, going 0-for-4 with a walk.

The 25-year-old Smith will be activated Monday, when he is eligible to come off the disabled list. He fell ill and was hospitalized on Aug. 24.