Wendle: Beaning 'more scary than anything'

March 1st, 2021

PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. -- Infielder was relieved to walk off the field with only a facial contusion after being hit in the helmet by a Lewis Thorpe fastball in the first inning of the Rays’ 6-5, six-inning loss to the Twins on Monday afternoon at Charlotte Sports Park.

“It was pretty close. Probably more scary than anything,” Wendle said. “I wasn’t sure immediately where it had hit, but I’m pretty confident it got all helmet and then the helmet just kind of whacked my face pretty good. But everything feels good, thankfully.”

After he was hit, Wendle stumbled out of the batter’s box and doubled over near the dugout, where he was checked by manager Kevin Cash and head athletic trainer Joe Benge. Wendle exited the game and stepped down on his own into the dugout, where he was further evaluated for the rest of the inning. He then walked to the Rays’ clubhouse between innings.

“We were all scared. Hopefully we avoided something,” Cash said. “We'll check on him this afternoon, throughout the day, throughout the night. But Joe popped back down after Joey went up and said that he thinks he's going to be all right.”

Wendle was already scheduled to sit out Tuesday's game against the Red Sox, Cash said. If he’s cleared to play, he’ll return to the lineup against the Pirates on Wednesday.

Wendle said he understood there was “no intent” on Thorpe’s end and added that he’d encourage the left-hander to keep pitching up and in.

Wendle has dealt with facial injuries in the past. He broke an orbital bone on a hard-hopping grounder once, and he took a “glancing blow” at the plate on another occasion that caused his jaw to swell.

In this case, Wendle said, it felt like the ball struck only his helmet, which then hit him in the nose and the right side of his face.

“There’s nothing too tender,” he said. “It just kind of feels like I got punched, not necessarily got hit by a baseball, so I’ll take the former of those two. Everything feels fine. Might have some bruising or might not, but overall, I think I lucked out big time. ... Thankful, honestly. It was a close call, and [I'm] glad it was nothing more.”

Game notes
• In the third inning, MLB No. 85 prospect Xavier Edwards -- who replaced Wendle at second base -- drove in two runs with a single to left field. Yandy Díaz then pulled an RBI double to left. Catcher Brett Sullivan had the Rays’ biggest hit in the fourth, a two-run ground-rule double to right that gave them a 5-2 lead.

• Lefty Dietrich Enns finished the second inning after Tyler Glasnow threw 25 pitches to get two outs, and Enns worked a scoreless third. Trevor Richards got through the fourth then gave up two singles to start the fifth before Tyler Zombro allowed an RBI double, a sacrifice fly and a two-run homer to Kyle Garlick. Non-roster left-hander Brian Moran pitched the sixth, striking out two in a scoreless inning.

• In the third inning, shortstop Taylor Walls showed why he’s considered by many to be the best defensive prospect in the Rays’ farm system. Walls scooped a grounder by Trevor Larnach, sped to second base then jumped off the bag and fired a throw to first to complete the 6-3 double play.

“He gets a lot of praise from a lot of people about just being special defensively,” Cash said. “That's not an easy play. To have that type of body control and get enough on the ball, the arm strength is great.”

• Monday’s game had been planned to last seven innings, but they called it after six at the Rays’ request. Cash said the Rays “kind of ran out of pitching,” had already pushed some pitchers further than they wanted and had to reserve some arms for Tuesday’s scheduled nine-inning game.

Twins manager and former Ray Rocco Baldelli, unsurprisingly, jokingly gave Cash a hard time about the adjustment in his postgame Zoom call with local media.

“That’s a Kevin Cash move right there. You’ve got to be pretty big to be able to change the game after the game’s already started,” Baldelli said. “To be able to make a move like that and have everyone just kind of go along with it, it says a lot about what he can do on a baseball field.”

Around the horn
• First baseman Ji-Man Choi (sore right knee) took part in the Rays’ pregame workout and is scheduled to make his Grapefruit League debut as their designated hitter on Wednesday. If that goes well, Choi will start at first base on Thursday afternoon against the Twins.

• Center fielder Kevin Kiermaier (tightness in both hips) continued to progress toward game action. Kiermaier was in center during the Rays’ cut-off/relay drills then took batting practice on the field. He is expected to face live pitching on Tuesday. Hitting coach Chad Mottola said the Rays were “probably going a little slow intentionally,” knowing that Kiermaier has a full Spring Training to get ready for the season.

“Rather be sure than test it, and we have to protect him against himself sometimes,” Mottola said. “There's plenty of time left. Six weeks [of Spring Training] is for the pitchers. It's not for the hitters. … As far as functional movement, yeah, he's full-go.”

• Right-hander Chris Archer and left-handers Rich Hill and Cody Reed faced hitters in live batting practice on Sunday. Cash said they all “looked really good.” Archer’s fastball velocity and slider were both where the Rays expected them to be, and Hill spun his breaking balls from different arm angles. Cash said they all looked “totally game-ready,” but veteran starters Archer and Hill could throw one more live BP session before getting into Grapefruit League games.

• Garrett Whitley took a knee during the national anthem on Monday, as he did before Sunday’s game. Cash said the team fully supported Whitley, calling him “just a special guy, special person.” Cash praised Whitley’s “extremely professional” handling of the situation and was also impressed by the prospect’s perspective, as the outfielder noted that part of his reason for kneeling was to spark renewed conversation about social justice issues.

“There was a lot of work done by The Players Alliance, MLB, the Black Lives Matter [movement] last year. We don't want to gain the ground we did last year as an industry and take a step back,” Cash said. “So the more conversations that we can have internally, we're going to be better for it.”