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Rays let go of longtime hitting coach Derek Shelton

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For the first six seasons of Derek Shelton’s career with the Tampa Bay Rays, it wasn’t his fault.

This year, evidently, it was.

The Rays fired Shelton, a longtime target of fans’ displeasure, Tuesday and replaced him with minor-league instructor Chad Mattola.

Tampa Bay has long struggled offensively, but some observers thought that was because hitting talent is more expensive, and therefore more difficult to obtain on a budget such as the Rays. Tampa Bay also has struggled to develop its own hitters in the minors.

Shelton worked for the Rays for seven seasons. His worst-hitting team was 2012, when it hit only .240. It hit .257 a year later.

Rays general manager Matt Silverman said the franchise wanted a new voice. Shelton was originally hired by Joe Maddon and was inherited by current manager Kevin Cash.

“We are grateful for all that Derek has given to the Rays for the past seven seasons. He brought great energy to our clubhouse and his work ethic with our hitters was outstanding,” said Rays President of Baseball Operations Matt Silverman in a statement. “We decided it was time for a new voice. Chad has worked with players throughout the organization for several years now, and we are excited for the perspectives and experiences he will bring to this role.”

One change could have been that this year’s batting order swung more freely and hit more home runs.

Mottola, who turns 45 next month, becomes the seventh hitting coach in Rays history following Shelton (2010-16), Steve Henderson (1998, 2006-09), Lee Elia (2003-05), Milt May (2002), Wade Boggs (2001) and Leon Roberts (1999-2000).

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Gary Shelton is one of the most recognized and honored sportswriters in the history of the state. He has won the APSE's national columnist of the year twice and finished in the top 10 eight times. He was named the Florida Sportswriter of the Year six times. Gary joined SaintPetersBlog in the spring, helping to bring a sports presence to the website. Over his time in sports writing, Gary has covered 29 Super Bowls, 10 Olympics, Final Fours, Masters, Wimbledons and college national championships. He was there when the Bucs won a Super Bowl, when the Lightning won a Stanley Cup and when the Rays went to a World Series. He has seen Florida, FSU and Miami all win national championships, and he covered Bear Bryant, Bobby Bowden and Don Shula along the way. He and his wife Janet have four children: Eric, Kevin, K.C. and Tori. To contact, visit garysheltonsports@gmail.com.

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