Casali shows signs of being answer at catcher

Backstop homers and throws out basestealer in Thursday's loss

May 4th, 2016

ST. PETERSBURG -- Curt Casali is showing signs of becoming an everyday catcher.

In Tuesday night's 10-5 loss to the Dodgers, Casali displayed toughness, power and a strong throwing arm.

The toughness came in the top of the fourth inning, when one of starter Matt Moore's pitches took a funny hop after hitting the dirt. It caught Casali flush on the right side of his neck, sending him to the ground on his back in pain.

Manager Kevin Cash and a Rays trainer ran onto the field to check on Casali. After a few moments, Casali said play on and remained in the game.

"It will be fine," Casali said. "Not a really good place to get hit. I'm taught to keep my chin down and [it was] just a weird bounce. Short curveball caught me in a place I'm not used to feeling and it hurt."

The power came when Casali stepped to the plate with two out and a runner aboard in the fourth. He hammered a 3-1 pitch from Scott Kazmir into the left-field stands for his second home run of the season to tie the game at three.

Unfortunately for the Rays, the Dodgers scored four in the top of the fifth to take a 7-3 lead.

Casali's home run "was a big hit," Cash said. "A really big part of the game. We needed some kind of boost, and he gave it to us. We went back out the next inning and gave it right back to them. That can be very deflating."

The Rays' catcher did not play on Sunday against the Blue Jays, but he drove home the winning run in a 4-3 win on Saturday. Not only did that hit give Casali his first career walk-off hit, it was the first walk-off hit by a Rays catcher since Rene Rivera had one against the Red Sox on April 23, 2015.

Casali showed promise last season when he hit 10 home runs in 101 at-bats. The power hasn't showed as much thus far in the season, though he's still averaging a home run every 12.7 at-bats dating back to 2015.

"I've been in there a lot with [hitting coaches Jamie Nelson and Derek Shelton], just experimenting with different movements," Casali said. "Trying to get back on track where I know I can be. I think tonight was a good step in that direction. Unfortunately it ended up in a loss."

Finally, Casali finished off his well-rounded performance by showing off his arm when he threw out Trayce Thompson trying to steal second for the final out in the fifth. Evan Longoria, playing over in a shift, applied the tag for the out.

"It was actually a pitchout," Casali said. "Foley called a pitchout and [Steve] Geltz executed it well, and that's why we put it on. It's my job to make sure we get it. Credit [Longoria] for hanging in there on a play that he's not used to doing."