Curtis Michael Casali…graduated from Vanderbilt University with a degree in corporate communications…born in Walnut Creek, Calif., and lived in Atlanta and L.A. before the family moved to Connecticut when he was 10…at New Canaan (Conn.) HS, was a three-sport athlete, quarterbacking the football team in a shotgun spread offense (winning a state title and All-State honors) and playing basketball as a sixth man…was a HS classmate of NHL player and U.S. Olympian Max Pacioretty…Curt's father, Lou, played quarterback for Columbia University in 1979 and 1980…his younger brother Andrew played at the University of Maryland Baltimore County, and other younger brother, Chase, is a student manager of the baseball team at Vanderbilt…one of his first youth baseball coaches there was longtime sports columnist and author Mike Lupica.
Played 9 games with the Rays last season, but spent the balance of the campaign with Durham (AAA)…was a September call-up for Tampa Bay (recalled 9/1), going 3-for-9 with a HR, 3 RBI, and 3 BB in his 9 G…had 8 G/2 GS behind the plate, throwing out one of 3 attempted base stealers…one of his starts was season finale on 10/1 vs. BAL, when he hit his lone HR off Kevin Gausman…spent balance of season at Triple-A, batting .263 with 5 HR and 48 RBI in 85 contests… team-high 53 G at catcher, also 32 G as DH…had .280 (54- 193) figure in 1st 53 G through end of June, then had .234 (25-107) mark in final 32 G in International League…batted .298 (42-141) with .809 OPS in home games…hit .388 (26-67) with RISP, including 7-for-11 with bases loaded…season-high 6 RBI on 7/19 vs. Indianapolis.
Made his first career Opening Day roster and spent most of the year in the majors, except for a four-week stint with Triple-A Durham in August…played in 84 games with 68 starts (62-C, 6-DH). Led the team with 62 starts at catcher…started 50 of 88 games prior to the All-Star break, but only 12 of 74 in the second half. Threw out 30.6 pct. (11 of 36) of attempted base stealers, the best rate on the team and up from 24.0 pct. in 2015…the MLB average was 24.4 in 2016. His .186 avg. was the 2nd lowest among major league catchers (min. 75 games), pct. points better than SD Derek Norris (.186)…hit only .137 (7-for-51) with RISP. His first homer came April 21 at BOS off David Price…is 7-for-14 with 3 HR and 5 RBI lifetime vs. the fellow Vanderbilt alum-the only pitcher against whom he's hit multiple home runs…his last homer came Sep 27 at CWS off Chris Sale. On April 25 vs. BAL, drove in both Rays runs in a 2-0 victory. On April 30 vs. TOR, delivered his first career walk-off hit, a 9th-inning RBI single off Brett Cecil for a 4-3 victory. Homered in consecutive games May 3-4 vs. LAD, second time in his career doing that…also did it in back-to-back multi-homer games on July 27-28, 2015 vs. DET. Had a career-high 3 BB on July 17 vs. BAL which tied the franchise record for a catcher (6th time, last José Lobatón on Sep 2, 2013 at LAA).
Rookie backstop enjoyed a breakout season and took over the starting catcher role for a month-long period before suffering a left hamstring strain on a home run trot Aug 25 vs. MIN, sidelining him for the last 37 games...it was his second consecutive season to end in injury...played in 38 games, 33 starts (32-C, 1-DH). Believed to be the first major leaguer since Luke Scott with the Orioles in 2010 to be injured on a home run trot...Scott also suffered a pulled hamstring. Became just the fourth catcher in Rays history to hit at least 10 HR in a season and only the second in the last 12 seasons, joining Kelly Shoppach (11 in 2011)...hit his 10th home run in his 68th career game...only 13 AL catchers all-time reached 10 homers as fast. From the time of his June 13 call up from Triple-A Durham until his injury (Aug 25), led the Rays with 10 HR...ranked 3rd among major league catchers in homers during this span, behind ARI Welington Castillo (14) and NYY Brian McCann (13)...despite missing the last 37 games, his 9 HR after the All-Star break tied for 4th most among major league catchers...since 2000, only three other rookie catchers hit as many homers after the break: TOR J.P. Arencibia (11 in 2011), SF Buster Posey (11 in 2010) and KC John Buck (12 in 2004). Slugged 10 HR in 101 AB, after 0 HR in 72 AB in 2014...among players with at least 100 AB, his 10.1 AB/HR ranked 1st in the majors ahead of MIA Giancarlo Stanton (10.3) and was the best ratio of any AL player since CWS Frank Thomas in 2005 (8.8, 12-HR, 105-AB)...it was the best ratio ever by a catcher (min. 100 AB), ahead of ATL Javy Lopez in 2003 (10.6, 43-HR, 457-AB).Two-thirds of his hits went for extra bases (24-H, 6-2B, 10-HR). Hit 2 HR in back-to-back games July 27-28 vs. DET...according to the Elias Sports Bureau, became the first rookie catcher in major league history with multiple homers in back-to-back team games...was the first catcher to do it since TEX Mike Napoli (Sep 27-28, 2011 at LAA)...joined Greg Vaughn (May 18-19, 2002 at BAL) as the only Rays to do it. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, became the fourth player to homer twice in back-to-back games within the first 50 games of his career, and first since his former Vanderbilt teammate PIT Pedro Alvarez (July 20-21, 2010 vs. MIL)...the others were BOS George Scott (May 4-6, 1966 at DET/MIN) and CWS Zeke Bonura (May 19-20, 1934 vs. PHA/BOS). Prior to his back-to-back 2-HR games, only four times in Rays history had a Rays catcher hit 2 HR in a game-and never by a rookie catcher.His second homer on July 27 vs. DET is believed to be just the second ball to deflect off the B-ring catwalk for a home run, joining CWS Frank Thomas, who did it in the fifth game ever played at Tropicana Field, April 4, 1998...Thomas' blast later prompted a change in the ground rules. Both his homers on July 28 vs. DET were off fellow Vandy alumnus David Price, making him just the sixth player with a multi-HR game off Price...he joined LAA Albert Pujols, NYY Mark Teixeira (Sep 28, 2011-"Game 162"), BAL Mark Reynolds, TOR Jose Bautista and BOS Victor Martinez. In addition, recorded 3 hits in each of his 2-HR games, the first rookie with at least 2 HR and 3 hits in consecutive games since OAK Troy Neel in July 8-9, 1993 vs. BOS. His 4 HR in that series tied the club record for a 3-game series, joining Carlos Peña (June 8-10, 2010 vs. TOR), Greg Vaughn (May 17-19, 2002 at BAL) and Fred McGriff (May 4-6, 1999 vs. KC)…His 6 HR in July were the most by a Rays catcher in a single month, passing John Flaherty (5, May 1999)...J.P. Arencibia tied that record with 6 HR in September...he was the first rookie catcher with 6 HR in July since SF Buster Posey in 2010 (7)...tied HOU Preston Tucker for the most HR among major league rookies in July, and tied Jonny Gomes' team mark (2005) for most by a Rays rookie in July…On June 17 at WAS, hit his first career homer off Jordan Zimmermann, recorded 3 hits and reached base 4 times-all while catching a 2-hit shutout in a 5-0 win...became the first Ray to reach 4 times while catching a shutout since Michel Hernandez on April 30, 2009 vs. BOS-a 13-0 win and combined 1-hitter by Matt Garza and Grant Balfour…On July 18 at TOR, hit a game-winning, 8th-inning solo homer off Ryan Tepera, making him the first rookie catcher in club history with a go-ahead homer in the 8th inning or later…Threw out 6 of 25 (24.0 pct.) attempted base stealers...yielded 4 SB on June 24 vs. TOR, then threw out 6 of 21 (28.6 pct.) after that.
Made his major league debut and appeared in 30 games, making 22 starts at catcher...selected to the major league roster on July 18, as Ryan Hanigan was placed on the DL with a left oblique strain...after his call-up, shared time with Jose Molina, starting 17 of the team's 34 games until he was optioned for Hanigan's return Aug 26...recalled Sep 1 when rosters expanded...Six of his 22 starts were shutouts...his catcher's ERA of 2.52 (207.1 innings, 52-ER) was the best of any major league backstop who appeared in at least 20 games, as well as lowest in Rays history...Alex Cobb pitched to a 1.09 ERA (41.1-IP, 5-ER) in 6 starts paired with Casali, compared to 3.46 (125-IP, 48-ER) with other catchers...Made his major league debut July 18 at MIN...in his first plate app singled off Kyle Gibson and scored...became the 19th player in Rays history to hit safely in his first major league PA, and first since Tim Beckham in 2013...On Aug 8 at CHC, notched his first career pick-off (Ryan Sweeney at 2B in the 4th) and became the first Rays rookie catcher with a CS and pickoff in the same game...Barely missed his first career homer on Aug 13 at TEX when his liner bounced on top of the 14-foot LF wall and back to the field for a double...the call was confirmed via Crew Chief review...Sustained a season-ending concussion Sep 24 at BOS after being struck in the mask twice by foul balls off the bat of Rusney Castillo in the 4th inning...Began the season with Double-A Montgomery, and earned an early-May promotion to Triple-A Durham...at the time of his July 18 call-up, was less than a year removed from playing for Class-A Charlotte.