For Rays’ Rodney Linares, managing Dominican WBC team is big deal

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BALTIMORE — Of all the words of praise, congratulations and excitement shared (in English and Spanish) on Thursday, Rodney Linares said “honor” was the most appropriate.

The Rays third-base coach was introduced at an early morning media conference as the manager of the Dominican Republic team for the upcoming World Baseball Classic.

“You can’t put it into words what’s going through my mind right now,’’ Linares, 45, said after the session, which was televised and streamed live in the island nation. “I just got named the manager to represent my home country, where I come from. As long as my career has been (26 years in pro ball), this is the first time I’m ever going to wear those colors. It’s just an honor.’’

Linares said one of the highlights was sharing the news with his now 81-year-old father, Julio, who had a lengthy and distinguished career in the game. “My dad’s a really serious man,’’ he said. “It might have been the second time he’s told me he’s really proud of me. Hearing him say it was really amazing.’’

Linares, who has managed in the Dominican winter league and in the Astros’ minor-league system, was chosen for several reasons. And by a familiar face as Nelson Cruz, who at 42 is still playing (with Washington), is the general manager for the WBC team.

Cruz said he was impressed greatly by Linares after finishing last season with the Rays and said he was confident he made a tough but correct choice to manage what will essentially be an All-Star team (and likely to include Rays shortstop Wander Franco).

Cruz cited Linares’ baseball acumen, winning background, caring personality and his ability to get along and be friendly with the players, which helps in this setting, where stars will be asked to share playing time and chance positions.

“He is the one,’’ Cruz said, “who is going to take us to the promised land to win the championship.’’

Trade market

With several needs to potentially address, Rays officials are doing a lot of talking in advance of Tuesday’s 6 p.m. trade deadline. As are reps of many other teams, which is why there has been little action, general manager Peter Bendix said before Thursday’s game. “Five days in advance of the deadline, a lot of times what happens is teams are just feeling each other out. Prices are understandably pretty high,’’ he said. “’And it’s a new playoff system and ... an extra playoff team. And so I think everyone is kind of trying to understand what that means. … I suspect as we get closer to the deadline and things firm up you’ll start to see more action.’’

Draft breeze

Third-round pick Trevor Martin, a right-hander from Oklahoma State, has signed, putting 16 of the team’s 22 picks under contract. Rays officials remain confident of signing top pick Xavier Isaac, with the deadline Monday, a deal could happen as soon as Friday.

Miscellany

Two keys to Ryan Yarbrough’s strong Thursday outing: 21 first-pitch strikes and the best cutter he has thrown all year. … The Rays lost all three series this season at Camden Yards, their 3-7 record their worst since going 2-8 in 2016. … They are 24-20 vs. AL East teams. … Excited about the Rays basketball jersey being given out in his honor Saturday, Brett Phillips will sign autographs for up to an hour after the game outside Gate 6. … Retired Tampa Bay Times chairman Paul Tash will throw out the ceremonial first pitch Friday.

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