In years past, Luke Maile would have received a Sept. 1 callup and spent the remainder of the season as the Milwaukee Brewers’ No. 3 catcher.
But with major-league teams no longer afforded the opportunity to fill out their rosters for the stretch run with unlimited minor-league players – 28 is the new limit, up from the regular-season limit of 26 – Maile finds himself on borrowed time.
The 30-year-old was recalled from Class AAA Nashville on Sept. 1 but only because normal backup Manny Piña strained his left oblique and was placed on the injured list.
Now, with Piña eligible to be reinstated from the IL as early as Wednesday, it’s only a matter of time before Maile is optioned back to Nashville.
“In this game, you kind of make your bed with things,” he said. “I’m in the role I’m in for a reason, and it’s my job to re-establish myself as a major-leaguer moving forward. That’s all I can really control.
“As far as the September thing, I don’t really mind the rule. I think 26 guys over the course of a year is hugely beneficial for a lot of dudes and if I draw the short end of the stick there’ll be another one and I’ll get it.
“So, you just roll with it. And at the end of the day if you play well, you don’t have to worry about it.”
The Brewers couldn’t have expected much more from Maile in his second stint with them this season.
In the five games he’d played in since his callup, Maile had hit in four of them – including doubles in each of the first three – to raise his season average to .286 and also driven in a pair of runs.
He was behind the plate for all nine innings of Adrian Houser’s masterful complete game against the St. Louis Cardinals, and on Sunday even pitched an inning to finish up a 12-0 blowout loss to the Philadelphia Phillies.
Calling the complete game was a definite feather in Maile’s cap, considering it had been more than four years since a Milwaukee pitcher had registered one and seven years since logging a complete-game shutout.
“It means a lot,” said Maile, with 228 major-league games over six seasons with three different organizations under his belt. “It’s something you’ve got to take a lot of pride in, right? When you’re in this role you have to embrace it and be ready whenever it does happen for you.
“It’s been a little bit of my career but it never makes it easy so when you have a little bit of success coming into an unusual situation, it’s a nice confidence boost and hopefully it’s a confidence boost for these guys as well.”
Maile’s outing as a reliever Sunday was the third of his career, and he allowed his first run when Brad Miller homered off him to start the ninth.
But he earned some props from Brandon Woodruff for his knuckleball – a weapon for which former Brewers backup backstop Erik Kratz was known – and most important saved manager Craig Counsell from having to burn another reliever in a lost cause.
Counsell actually evoked Kratz’s name when asked about the job Maile did behind the plate for Houser’s complete game.
“(Saturday) night, I thought ‘Erik Kratz’ when he was catching. I very much thought that,” he said. “Just very comfortable able to put a game plan in place and execute what we have discussed in meetings.
“He did a nice job of that.”
Quipped Maile: “(Houser) would have made a lot of people look smart that night. I was just happy to be a part of it.”
Maile is in his first season with the organization, and it’s tough to guess what the future holds for him. Piña has been reliable but is also getting older (34) and the Brewers have a highly rated catching prospect at Nashville in Mario Feliciano.
But after battling injuries for much of 2019 and all of 2020, Maile is simply happy to have received the opportunity to contribute once again and re-boot his career a bit.
“It’s hard to sit and if you sit you’d like it to be something like this (the major leagues) where you can make it work,” said Maile. “But being able to play again was huge for me developmental-wise and just for my mind.”