At 31 years old, Joey Wendle is the veteran of the Rays' infield. Drafted by the Indians in 2012, he quickly clicked with Minor League infield coordinator Travis Fryman, learning both baseball and life skills. From his debut in '16 until now, Wendle has found mentors in teammates and coaches, each teaching him something different whether they knew it or not. Now, he finds himself on the other side, serving as a mentor to Taylor Walls.
“He's a gamer,” said Wendle of the rookie shortstop. “I think that's the first thing that comes to mind. He's just competitive. He's in the game. I would say for someone with as little experience in the Majors as him, he’s wise beyond his years. Just to see kind of the maturity of the type of player that he is, is pretty cool.”
Walls made his Major League debut on Friday, impressing with his switch-hitting offense and impactful defensive skills. The Rays' No. 7 prospect is already working on the little things, according to Wendle, something that separates good players from great ones.
Wendle is encouraged by the progress his infield mate has already shown in four games, but wants to serve as a resource for off-the-field things, knowing that on-field stuff “irons itself out.”
“I think there's a learning curve when you come from the Minor Leagues to the Major Leagues,” said Wendle. “I think more than anything, just being a resource, just being somebody that [Walls] feels comfortable coming to.”
The two spent time before Wednesday’s game against the Royals discussing the rookie’s mental preparation and game-day routine.
Though the student has not totally become the master, yet. As Wendle spoke to reporters, he made sure to note that he thinks he can learn a few things from rookie Walls as well.
For just the fourth time in franchise history, the Rays have a scheduled off-day on Friday -- the others were in August 2019, April '18 and April '04. Before the team plays Philadelphia for a two-game series, it plans to enjoy a scheduling rarity.
“It is strange,” said manager Kevin Cash. “But we will take it.”
Cash joked he doesn’t have big plans but is thankful to give his starters, especially the outfielders, a rest. The outfield rotation has shifted a bit, mixing and matching up players to ensure the health of his lineup.
“Everybody is getting pretty consistent reps, which is a good thing,” said Cash. “We knew they were all gonna help us. But we're able to get everybody their reps and keep them timed up, while also keeping guys fresh. We don't really see anything wrong with what we've got. Great contributions from all of them.”