Thursday, September 20, 2018
Tampa Bay Rays

Rays journal: Hitting groove eludes Kiermaier

MIAMI — CF Kevin Kiermaier hasn't found many hits or any kind of groove since coming back early from the disabled list two weeks ago, but manager Kevin Cash said they don't plan any changes, including keeping him atop the Rays order.

Kiermaier went into play Tuesday hitting just .140 (6-for-43) in his first 12 games back with two extra-base hits, 18 strikeouts and a .530 OPS.

"He came back, he wanted to be back and we did the right thing in getting him back. He energizes us with the defense alone,'' Cash said.

"I know the bat's been quiet. He's probably pulling off the ball a little bit. I've talked to Chad (Mottola, hitting coach) a little bit. KK is not a big mechanics guy. He is more of a feel guy. He doesn't want to have a bunch of things thrown at his face. He wants to go up and be athletic. That's what's made him good.

"I think it's our job to allow that to kind of run its course, the sooner the better obviously.''

Cash said he and Mottola were encouraged by Kiermaier's Monday batting practice, noting he seemed "more on time" with his swing, which typically portends for near-future success.

Kiermaier wasn't doing very well before tearing a ligament in his right thumb April 15, hitting .163 with a .483 OPS, so that has compounded the problem, leaving him with ugly overall numbers, .151 (13-for-86) with a .501 OPS.

"When KK was coming back I knew what his numbers were, I knew we were all going to look at it, I knew it was going to be talked about,'' Cash said. "The only way he was going to do (something about that) was if he reeled off a 20-for-30 and that's not realistic.

"It's going to take some time for him to get his numbers to where they always are, but if you look at his track record over three-four years in the big leagues, he always gets to there (.262 average, .750 OPS). He's been very consistent. Now he has his work cut out to get there.''

Rehab report: Archer sharp

RHP Chris Archer looked sharp on the mound in Port Charlotte, making his first, and potentially only, rehab start as he works his way back from an abdominal strain that has idled him since June 2. Archer worked four no-hit innings for the Class A Stone Crabs against Fort Myers (and demoted Twins slugger Miguel Sano), striking out seven and walking one, throwing 37 of his 54 pitches for strikes, clocking 93-96 mph  in a game delayed nearly an hour at the start by rain. If all goes well, and Archer feels good over the next couple days, the Rays could bring him back as soon as Monday against the Tigers at the Trop, giving him two starts before the All-Star break

Doing the lineup shuffle

In juggling the lineup to balance playing time without having a DH this week, Cash ended up sitting 1B C.J. Cron after his first three-hit game of the season, and his first big day after going 5-for-44 over his previous 13 games. "It's tough to sit 'em all, but, yes, you don't want to do that,'' Cash acknowledged. "Everyone says when you get two-three hits, it's always good to bounce back out there. '' Instead, Cron pinch-hit in the fourth for starter Ryan Yarbrough with two on and no out and struck out looking.

Putting some juice in the Citrus Series

Asked about the excitement of the in-state rivalry with the Marlins, Cash answered diplomatically: "I think it is neat but both of us would like to be in a better position right now. Hopefully, obviously, we're two clubs that are building toward that so in years to come maybe this is going to get a little more exciting.''

Quote of the day

"They went deep in my Instagram. I've got to go back and clean that up.''

— Rays rookie 1B Jake Bauers, after an apparently somewhat embarrassing appearance on MLB Network's Intentional Talk show

Miscellany

• The Rays are planning to celebrate July 4 with what Cash called a "heavy, heavy" bullpen day in the 1:10 matinee against the Marlins, initially planning to have RHP Ryne Stanek serve as the opener and then rotate in several pitchers for two-three inning stints, but switching after Tuesday's marathon to RHP Matt Andriese.

• First pitch temperature was 85 as the Marlins again kept the roof open.

• Cron on Monday delivered the Rays second game-tying hit of the season with two outs in the ninth, following Brad Miller (April 20). That was their sixth such hit since the start of 2017, before that the didn't have once since 2012.

• Online voting for the AL All-Star squad continues through midnight Thursday, Wilson Ramos was leading at catcher at Monday's most recent update.

• The Rays made an 11th international signing, per Baseball America, adding C Felix Salguera of Venezuela.

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