CHICAGO -- After beating the White Sox, 3-1, on Friday night at Guaranteed Rate Field, Rays manager Kevin Cash tried to put Adeiny Hechavarria's defensive wizardry into words."Just get them to hit it to Hech," Cash said. That seems to be the key."The Rays acquired the slick-fielding shortstop from the
CHICAGO -- After beating the White Sox, 3-1, on Friday night at Guaranteed Rate Field, Rays manager Kevin Cash tried to put Adeiny Hechavarria's defensive wizardry into words.
"Just get them to hit it to Hech," Cash said. That seems to be the key."
The Rays acquired the slick-fielding shortstop from the Marlins on June 26 for a pair of prospects. Always known for his glove, Hechavarria's defensive skills proved particularly valuable on Friday.
With left-hander Blake Snell on the mound, Hechavarria started three double plays. One, in the fifth inning off a sinking liner hit by White Sox shortstop Tim Anderson that Statcast™ measured with an exit velocity of 102.1 mph, caught Hechavarria between hops, but he was able to handle it and turn a double play to end the inning.
"Can't get any better," Snell said. "He's the best. Any time it's hit over there [toward him], I feel pretty confident. Hech is one of the best, and I trust him every time."
"The sharp one-hopper, he makes everything look easy," Cash said. "Those are not easy plays. He's just so agile, puts his body and his hands in such good position to be able to not only catch it, but be in a good spot to get a good feed to [second baseman] Brad [Miller]."
He victimized Anderson again in the seventh, snaring a bases-loaded liner to end the inning. Hechavarria executed all 10 plays he was involved in at shortstop flawlessly.
"I like, especially when I'm not hitting, to make nice plays and have a good defensive day," Hechavarria said through an interpreter. "It's not easy. Everyone tells me that, but nothing is easy. It's everything. Quick hands, quick feet."
Hechavarria's bat hasn't looked particularly sharp during his tenure in Tampa Bay, entering Saturday's game with a .234 average and .615 OPS through 54 games, but his glove has more than made up for it. He's posted a defensive WAR of 0.7, per Baseball Reference.
Rays first baseman Logan Morrison, who played with Hechavarria with the Marlins, called him the best shortstop he's ever played with. Right-hander Matt Andriese noted the level of confidence he has on the mound with Hechavarria behind him.
"He makes some unbelievable plays, Andriese said. "The ball's hit in that direction, you know he's going to make a play on it. I've seen nothing but good things from him."
With the Rays in the thick of a postseason race -- they entered Saturday three games behind the Twins for the second American League Wild Card spot -- the focus on defense intensifies as the season progresses, and Hechavarria's glove has been a big boost for the Rays, who haven't qualified for the postseason since 2013.
"It's been huge," Cash said. "... A very telling sign from a shortstop is how many times do you see him get a bad hop or anything like that, and I can't think of any. He's always in the right position. The combination of his footwork and his hands working together, he's so confident."
Fabian Ardaya is a reporter for MLB.com based in Chicago who covered the Rays on Saturday.