ST. PETERSBURG -- Change was in the air Tuesday when the Rays announced that pitching coach Jim Hickey is leaving the organization and bench coach Tom Foley will move to a new position with the club. In addition, Major League coach Jamie Nelson will not return to the staff, but a new role for him within the organization is being explored.
Third-base coach Charlie Montoyo will assume the role of bench coach in 2018, while Triple-A Durham pitching coach Kyle Snyder will be promoted to Major League pitching coach.
First-base coach Rocco Baldelli, hitting coach Chad Mottola and bullpen coach Stan Boroski will all return.
Rays manager Kevin Cash said during a conference call that making these moves was difficult, and that he had great respect for everybody involved.
Hickey had been the Rays' pitching coach for 11 seasons (2007-17). During his tenure, the Rays led the American League with 127 shutouts (tied with the Angels), held opponents to a .247 batting average, had a 1.28 WHIP and ranked second with a 3.95 ERA and 13,988 strikeouts.
Hickey "helped bring a lot of success to the Rays," said Cash, who noted that he understands he'll need to own the decision to go another direction. Cash did stress that he has a long-time relationship with Snyder, and that they communicate well about the young pitchers throughout the organization.
"I think that Kyle Snyder has had a really big impact on a lot of our young pitchers," Cash said. "We have an opportunity going forward with a core group of young pitchers. The ones who are already here, and the ones who are very close, knocking on the door. And Kyle has had his hand in their development along the way."
Foley concludes a 16-year tenure on the Rays' Major League coaching staff, the longest in franchise history. He has been the bench coach the past three seasons (2015-17). Prior to that, he served 13 seasons (2002-2014) as third-base coach.
Cash said that Foley's future role is still evolving, but he added that Foley will be "extremely active with the Major League club."
Cash also said he felt Montoyo would be an "asset going forward, with the in-game decision-making and thoughts that come up."
"We all know that the game moves quick, and you can try to map out decisions to the best of all of our capabilities," Cash said. "But things adjust, and I felt that Charlie was really, really good at seeing things before they happened. And providing that heads-up during the game will be very beneficial going forward."
Nelson spent the past five seasons (2013-17) as a Major League coach, which has included the role of assistant hitting coach to help Mottola. Going forward, it sounds as though Mottola will have an even stronger voice for directing the Rays' hitters.
"Let's change the message a little bit," Cash said. "Change the voice a little bit, and try to do everything to keep him in the best spot in the organization, which we have every intention for him to continue to make an impact."
Montoyo becomes the ninth bench coach in club history. He previously spent eight seasons as manager for Durham from 2007-14.
"I managed so many games that I have an idea about what's going to happen and stuff," said Montoyo, who called his promotion a compliment. "Kevin trusted me. With Tom [Foley] next to us, we'd talk about what's going to happen, and that happened a lot. ... If he asks questions, I answer them, or I say, 'We could do this, becuase of that,' and it worked out pretty good for us."
Snyder becomes the eighth pitching coach in franchise history. He began his coaching career in 2012, and has spent all six of those seasons in the Rays' organization, the last three as the pitching coach for Durham.
Building relationships and trust with the pitchers is a priority for Snyder, who noted he's not a "one size fits all" guy, and that he hopes to build off Hickey's success. Snyder called the opportunity "unexpected," and sounded excited about his new position. He added that he has "enormous shoes to fill," and that he faces a "daunting task" following Hickey.