ST. PETERSBURG — Rays All-Star infielder Joey Wendle's an old-school defender. He's shown he can play almost any position on the field, but it's what he doesn't bring to the batter's box that makes him a true throwback. Wendle's one of the only players in Major League Baseball who doesn't wear batting gloves.
"Everyone always asks me why not? To me, it’s just been why? Why would I wear them?" Wendle said before Friday's game against Miami "I grew up not using them. Never took to them. I’ve tried them, but i just prefer the feel of the skin on the bat."
Wendle's hitting .271 with a career-high 11 home runs so far this season. He says the grind of the MLB schedule doesn't really take too much of a toll on his glove-less hands. He says he uses a couple of different pine tar mixtures, but he's low-maintenance.
"You know what works for you in terms of different climates, different temperatures, and stuff like that. It’s pretty straightforward. You really don’t have to do anything to ‘em."
Rays outfielder Austin Meadows has a career-high 103 RBIs so far this season. He uses batting gloves, pine tar, and a thumb guard. Meadows said there's no way he'd be able to hit without the extra equipment.
"No, I would throw the bat in the stands, for sure," Meadows laughed. "I have very sweaty palms. I don’t know how Joey does it. I have to have pine tar and gloves and everything. It’s pretty impressive what he does."
Rays manager Kevin Cash wore batting gloves, and he hit .181 in eight Major League seasons.
"I played without a bat, so yeah I could imagine it," Cash joked. "Joey is a special player. I think it’s fair to call him a throwback. His at-bats are grind out at-bats where he wants to pick up big hits and really impact the team. We are very, very fortunate to have a player like Joey Wendle."
Entering play Friday, the Rays have nine regular-season games remaining. They are three wins away from tying the franchise record of 97 set in 2008.