PITTSBURGH -- Right-hander Alex Cobb acknowledged Tuesday night that not many people are talking about the Rays. But both he and Rays manager Kevin Cash believe there is a lot to like about Tampa Bay at the moment.And Adeiny Hechavarria's debut at shortstop suggested that the Rays might be getting
PITTSBURGH -- Right-hander Alex Cobb acknowledged Tuesday night that not many people are talking about the Rays. But both he and Rays manager Kevin Cash believe there is a lot to like about Tampa Bay at the moment.
And Adeiny Hechavarria's debut at shortstop suggested that the Rays might be getting better.
Hechavarria, who was acquired from the Marlins on Monday, didn't waste any time proving his worth in the Rays' 4-2 win over the Pirates at PNC Park. Hechavarria made what Cash described as "one of the best plays he's ever seen" in the second, laying out to make a diving stop, jumping to his feet and bouncing a throw across the infield to Logan Morrison for the out at first base.
Hechavarria also supplied timely hits at the plate to complement his defense, driving in two of the Rays' four runs.
"We are excited to have him," Cash said. "We said from the get-go that it's going to make our defense better with him and [second baseman] Timothy Beckham up the middle and it showed today."
The Rays optioned Daniel Robertson to Triple-A Durham to make room for Hechavarria, who hadn't played since May 8 due to a strained left oblique muscle. He was hitting .277 with a home run before the injury, but it was his defense that the Rays coveted. Hechavarria was 12th in the National League last season in defensive runs saved, with nine, so the Rays decided to move Beckham from shortstop to second base to strengthen their infield defense.
"Obviously [Beckham] was frustrated because he feels like he's earned the right to stay at shortstop," Cash said. "I understand that. I appreciate his thoughts. Saying that, if we feel like there is an opportunity to make our complete club better, we need to do that."
And most importantly, the acquisition of Hechavarria helps the Rays' chances to contend for a playoff berth. As of Tuesday, the Rays were 2 1/2 games out of first in the AL East and a half-game out of a Wild Card spot. Hechavarria provides more depth to the infield, giving the Rays more opportunities to rest players. And he can assist their pitching staff with his defense. And he showed on Tuesday that he can also contribute at the plate.
"Anytime you can help add to your defense, it's a big thing. We talked about it; we like where our club is at," Cash said. "[Yesterday] was a busy off-day, but it was a good off-day because we feel like we got better as a team. ... We feel like we've made our up-the-middle defense better.
"We have a good team."
Jonathan Toye is a reporter for MLB.com based in Pittsburgh who covered the Rays on Tuesday.