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Casali's work behind the dish paying off

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CHICAGO -- Curt Casali threw out an attempted basestealer and picked off a runner at second base in Friday's 4-3 Rays win over the Cubs. It was the eighth time in club history a Rays catcher has had a caught stealing and a pickoff in a game and the first time since Kelly Shoppach turned the trick on April 19, 2011, against the White Sox. It was the first time by a rookie.

That gave the rookie catcher a boost considering the road he's traveled. He noted that he could throw really well in high school before the bottom fell out.

"That was one of my calling cards -- I could throw people out," Casali said. "Then I had Tommy John surgery in '09, my sophomore year [at Vanderbilt], and it took a while to get back from that."

Casali came to the Rays in a March 25, 2013, trade that sent Minor League pitcher Kyle Lobstein to the Tigers.

"When I first signed with Detroit, I had a little bit of a hitch in my arm and it slowed my throws down," Casali said. "And I was dealing with some shoulder problems. Since I've gotten traded over to the Rays, it's been a huge improvement for me. I know I haven't had much success since I've been called up. [Friday] was a good day, moving in the right direction."

Casali said the time he spent in the Instructional League in 2013 helped him with his throwing. He also gave a lot credit to Minor League catching instructor Paul Hoover and Major League catching coach Jamie Nelson.

"So I definitely owe them," Casali said. "... [Thinking about my mechanics] hasn't been in my head for a long time now. I just get up and throw it. Try to get rid of it as quickly as I can."

Nelson noted that the knock on Casali had been that he did not get rid of the ball quickly enough.

"And we've been really stressing on using your feet, working through the ball and getting rid of the ball as quick as you can, obviously under control to make that accurate throw," Nelson said. "He's done a good job. We've been working on it every day. And to his credit, he's taken what we've been working on into the game.

"He's a very cerebral guy, and it's good. He's working hard. This is the place you want to be. And he wants to work hard enough to not only be here, but to stay here."

Bill Chastain is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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