7/19/2014 7:45 P.M. ET
Casali impresses in debut with Rays
By Bill Chastain / MLB.com
MINNEAPOLIS -- Curt Casali was selected from Triple-A Durham on Friday and made his Major League debut, starting at catcher against the Twins Friday night and collecting his first Major League hit in his first big league at-bat.
Overall, he made a favorable impression on Rays manager Joe Maddon.
"The thing that I saw last night that was very impressive was the way that he blocked the ball," Maddon said. "I mean, because [Alex] Cobb's not easy. He's going to throw that curveball in the dirt and the changeup in the dirt and he did a really nice job of that. I thought he received the ball well. He wasn't jumping all over the place, and when you talked to him he was in control of his emotions. So all of that stuff was a positive.
"Moving forward, I knew he'd been struggling offensively in the Minors Leagues more recently, but this guy's got some good offense in him, too. And I think if we can just help him find what's been missing more recently, we can possibly help with that. But the guy's definitely ready to be here. Emotionally, too. I'm not afraid to use him."
After Friday night's game, home-plate umpire Hunter Wendelstedt told Maddon that Casali looked good from his vantage point.
Maddon was asked how often an umpire will tell a manager his opinion on a catcher and he replied: "Only when he means it."
"Often times I'll go up to an umpire when a new catcher is out there and I'll say, 'What do you think? What do you got on my guy?' But without even asking he brought it to my attention. It's almost like a courtesy thing. ... It was nice that Hunter came by and validated. So then when you talk to Curt you can say, 'Hey listen, you did a great job. I want you to know the umpire felt the same way. Nice going.' And that goes a long way."
Rays tracking Hellickson in Minors
MINNEAPOLIS -- Due to the Rays' abundance of off-days this month, right-hander Jeremy Hellickson was optioned to the Minor Leagues last weekend in order to continue pitching while the Rays go with a four-man rotation.
Hellickson, who began the season on the disabled list due to right elbow surgery, started for Double-A Montgomery Monday night and will start for Class A Advanced Charlotte Sunday at Clearwater.
"I guess he did OK his last time out," said Rays manager Joe Maddon when asked what he would like to see from Hellickson on Sunday. "Nothing specifically, just that he's healthy and well. [Bullpen catcher Scott Cursi] called him the other day and he said that he was really sharp. And seems like everything is trending in the right direction. Just so that his velocity numbers are good and that his arm feels well. Nothing specifically."
Hellickson went 4 1/3 innings, allowing one run and six hits while striking out two in his only start for the Rays this season on July 8.
Maddon did not have an answer for when the rotation would be expanded to five pitchers and Hellickson would be put back into the rotation. He did allow that the decision would be made, "when we get home."
Bill Chastain is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.