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Rays quickly realize what Wendle adds to club

Infielder relishes new opportunity after trade from A's prior to season
MLB.com @wwchastain

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Joey Wendle can play.

Maybe that's not breaking news to some, but the timing of his arrival to the Rays during the Winter Meetings brought comparisons between the Yankees' offseason agenda and the Rays'.

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FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Joey Wendle can play.

Maybe that's not breaking news to some, but the timing of his arrival to the Rays during the Winter Meetings brought comparisons between the Yankees' offseason agenda and the Rays'.

View Full Game Coverage

On Dec. 11, the Yankees announced they had signed Giancarlo Stanton. Hours later, the Rays fired back with the news they had acquired Wendle in a trade for a player to be named.

Take that!

While Wendle is not a celebrated power hitter, and is relatively unknown, he has been impressive this spring, putting on display a skill-set that indicates the Rays acquired a pretty good player in December.

Rays general manager Erik Neander said of Wendle on the day they acquired him: "Grinder-type player. High baseball IQ, left-handed hitter, infielder that has a history of hitting. Part of what has drawn us to him over time is ... really a high-quality defender, and is about as reliable as they come."

Manager Kevin Cash recently insisted that he hasn't been suprised by what he's seen of Wendle this spring.

"I think our guys got it right when we acquired him," Cash said. "They said he's a very consistent player, solid defender, and gets his hits. He's quietly had a pretty good spring at the plate. Seems like he's getting a hit a day. Just very steady. And sometimes you don't want to see surprising, you just want to see consistency, and that's what he's shown."

The Rays manager might not be surprised by what he's seen, but he allowed that he might be surprised the Rays were able to get him.

"Yeah, a little bit," Cash said. "This is a guy with a three-year consistent track record in Triple-A. He's on the verge of maybe getting those reps at the big league level now, and seeing what he can do. There's still, obviously, some roster decisions to be ironed out. But he's showed really well this spring."

:: Spring Training coverage presented by Camping World ::

If those roster decisions were made on Friday, Wendle would likely have been declared the left-handed-hitting option for a second-base platoon situation with right-handed hitting Daniel Robertson.

In 641 Minor League games, Wendle hit .288 with 58 home runs and 327 RBIs. In 2015, he logged 42 doubles for Triple-A Nashville.

"I feel like I've had some fine seasons in the Minor Leagues," Wendle said. "I feel like I definitely could have done more to force the organization's hand in calling me up. I think I had good numbers, but I don't think anything to write home about. I think there's a lot more to be desired in terms of on-base percentage, and stuff like that.

"I've always had the mentality to be so good that they can't afford to not have you on the Major League team. I don't know if I always did that. I feel like I've had some good seasons, but I definitely think I have more in the tank."

In 36 Major League games, all with the A's, Wendle has a .266 average with two home runs and 16 RBIs. One of those home runs brought more than the average amount of joy derived from hitting a home run in the Major Leagues. That's because it came in the form of a grand slam on Sept. 17, against the Phillies. Wendle, who hails from Pennsylvania, grew up rooting for the Phillies.

Video: OAK@PHI: Wendle cranks a grand slam to right field

"Yeah, that was a fun experience," Wendle said. "Had a lot of friends and family there. I was just thankful to have the opportunity to play in front of them. I knew that a lot of them had been coming out to support me, and I hadn't got much playing time in that series. To do that in front of them was just pretty special."

Wendle did not take getting traded by the A's as a slight.

"I looked at it as a great opportunity," he said. "I wouldn't say I was surprised. As a player you always know that's a possibility. And the A's have tremendous depth in the middle of the field. I looked at it more as an opportunity."

And Wendle has definitely made the most of that opportunity this spring.

Bill Chastain has covered the Rays for MLB.com since 2004.

Tampa Bay Rays, Joey Wendle