Casali's big night an audition for catcher job

Cash says position is wide open going into next season

Casali's big night an audition for catcher job

CHICAGO -- Kevin Cash told reporters before Tuesday night's game that the catching job is wide open heading into next season. He added: "It's no secret. We're looking for somebody to take off and be that complete player, offensively, defensively, lead our pitching staff."

Curt Casali then went out and put his best foot forward in the Rays' 13-6 loss to the White Sox by going 2-for-4 with a home run and a hustling double.

Currently, the catching appears to be in a good place with Casali, Bobby Wilson and Luke Maile forming a trio that not only handles pitching well, but are all friends and good teammates.

Whether the Rays go to Spring Training with just that group remains to be seen, but if they do, Cash allowed, "That's probably going to be a healthy competition. ... There will be an open opportunity for somebody to come in and take that come Spring Training."

How will one of the catchers separate themself from the others? Offensively is likely the best answer to that question.

Wilson, who returned to the Rays this season after they lost him in July 2015 when the Rangers selected him off waivers, is having his best offensive season with seven home runs and 33 RBIs.

Maile has shown flashes of power, and has hit in the past. And then there's Casali, who had an impressive power season in 2015 before getting off to a slow start in 2016.

Casali flashed some baseball know-how in the second with Mikie Mahtook on first, when he doubled to left and decided to go for two. The throw beat Casali to the base, but when second baseman Carlos Sanchez went to make the tag, Casali slid past before reaching back to grab the base to complete his double. Alexei Ramirez then delivered a single to right to drive home Mahtook and Casali.

"That was probably one of the best slides I've ever had in my life," said Casali with a chuckle. "I'm not used to good athleticism like that."

Casali's double

In the fourth, Casali added a solo home run, his eighth of the season. Both of his hits came against tough Chris Sale, who is in the hunt for Cy Young Award honors this season.

"This year overall, it's been a struggle for me, on the field, off the field, just trying to get myself back in the game, in game shape that I know I'm capable of," Casali said. "Obviously tonight was a decent personal performance. Pretty upset about how the game went overall. But, I feel like I'm trending in the right direction."

Tuesday night was Casali's night to shine behind the plate. Wilson and Maile will get their chances as well. Casali allowed that he's ready to compete with both for the final five games of the season and into the spring to be the Rays' catcher in 2017.

"That's how it works because this is our job," Casali said. "We want to play this as long as we can. Obviously, me, Luke and Bobby, we go way back. Great friends. I wish the best for the both of them, honestly. I wish we could all be teammates over the course of a year. But it's not really how baseball works.

"There's usually two catchers on a club. Somebody's going to have to separate themself and I can only control what I can do. As long as I can put a good foot forward toward the end of the season hopefully they'll consider me for next year."

Bill Chastain has covered the Rays for since 2005. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.