Sunday, February 18, 2018
Tampa Bay Rays

Luke Maile looking to stick around as Rays catcher

ST. PETERSBURG — C Luke Maile certainly enjoys being praised for his defense, especially since that's why he was recalled Friday to replace Hank Conger, who was optioned to Triple-A Durham.

But the rookie is hoping his recent success at the plate continues against major-league pitching and leads to an extended stay with the Rays.

"No question," Maile said before Saturday's game against the Orioles. "I don't ever have the expectations to set the world on fire, necessarily. Not that I don't want to do that or strive to do that. But I don't want to be a one-way guy either. I want to be able to produce on the offensive front and not be an automatic out or a base-clog.

"I want to be a guy who can do it all, move runners, make contact, drive the ball every once in a while and drive some runs in, that makes your defense stand out even more."

Maile, who hit .305 with two home runs since June 1 in Durham, followed his two-hit night Friday at Tropicana Field with a double in his first at-bat Saturday that hopped over the centerfield wall. He said he feels more confident at the plate, and it shows. The only change he made in his swing was a commitment to getting his hands to the ball quicker.

"And something clicked about six weeks ago," he said.

With the success has come more confidence, and with more confidence has come more success.

"Just to walk up to the plate the last month and see that your numbers are slowly getting better, mix in a home run or two, have a couple of extra-base hits, I think mentally that confidence goes a long way," he said.

Fellow catchers Curt Casali and Conger have hit a combined .190 this season with a .268 on-base percentage and a .327 slugging percentage, so the bar is not high. Any offense Maile provides would be a boost for him and the team's slumping offense.

"Without a doubt," manager Kevin Cash said. "That goes along with any player that we bring up. But the last thing that we want is for Luke to come up here and put too much pressure on himself and be something that he's not. But any additional hitting (helps). This is something that's he's worked on and had reaped some rewards as of late, and we expect that to continue."

Odo searches for Odo of yore: RHP Jake Odorizzi, who has pitched past the fifth inning twice in his past seven starts, is striving to recapture the form that allowed him to pitch at least six innings in his first 11 starts of 2015.

That run was stopped by an oblique strain suffered in Seattle.

"(Get) back to being consistent, reliable and be capable of what I'm doing," Odorizzi said. "It starts (today), and I just need to keep it going for the next two-plus months, and I'll be a happy guy."

Medical matters: A timetable has not been set for the return of DH Steve Pearce (hamstring), who began his minor-league rehab assignment Saturday with Class A Charlotte. Pearce was the DH and was 2-for-4 with a double a two runs. The scheduled second half of a doubleheader was rained out. … LF Desmond Jennings (hamstring) began his running program and took batting practice with the team. … RHP Brad Boxberger (oblique) and RHP Chase Whitley (Tommy John surgery) both played catch. The team plans to make a decision today on the next step for both pitchers.

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