After almost four years in the minor leagues, former Kentucky Wildcats standout Luke Maile is getting a chance to make a name for himself with the Tampa Bay Rays.
In the midst of yet another rebuild, the Rays plan to use the rest of this season to assess their young talent for the future of the club. Since coming up after the All-Star break, Maile has started in 9 of 12 games and is really starting to connect with the pitching staff.
Several members of the Rays pitching staff spoke to Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times recently about their initial work with Maile.
"Have you ever looked at his hands? His actual hands? They are enormous,'' Rays ace Chris Archer told Topkin. "I think it allows him to be strong and present the ball really well. We've always had good receiving catchers, but on other teams you see guys get beat by the ball and then try to frame it. That doesn't happen to Luke, because his hands are so strong.''
Boasting a 2.37 catchers ERA and throwing out 3 of 6 base stealers, Maile has also made an early impression on his manager.
"We have some guys that are going to play the entire year for us, it's pretty difficult to uproot our everyday players, “said Manager Kevin Cash, a former catcher himself. “But Luke's in a situation where he can definitely benefit by the opportunity of getting some playing time.''
Despite hitting only .214 early on, Maile seems to have the intangibles necessary to play professional baseball for a long time.
Veteran pitcher Matt Moore refers to him as “a baseball rat,” citing post game meal conversations where Maile cannot seem to get enough baseball talk. Cash references the comfort that pitchers have in working with him and his timely mound visits.
Regardless of his production on the field, it may be that his biggest asset is his growing relationship with the Rays pitching staff...or maybe it’s his enormous hands.
Tune in this weekend and see Luke Maile and the Tampa Bay Rays host the New York Yankees for a three-game series.