Sunday, December 17, 2017
Tampa Bay Rays

Kevin Kiermaier savors attention for catch

HOUSTON — RF Kevin Kiermaier said he didn't realize his leaping catch Wednesday took the No. 1 spot on ESPN's SportsCenter's top 10 plays until he got bombarded by text messages from friends late that night.

"Once people saw it, that was like a snowball effect," Kiermaier said.

"Everybody hit me up."

The rookie, who watched the replay "a fair amount," pointed out that his catch in May in Anaheim was No. 2 on ESPN's top plays, so he was happy to get on top.

"You think about it when you're younger, but to actually do it is another thing," Kiermaier said. "It's my first one; so hopefully many more to come from here on out."

Kiermaier said he was especially thrilled by the Rays pitchers' reactions and hugs with LHP David Price telling him the play gave him "goose bumps."

The catch was still the talk of the Rays' clubhouse Friday, with some comparing it to RF Sam Fuld's diving catch in Chicago in 2011. Ben Zobrist didn't know which one was more difficult but said Kiermaier's, which came with the bases loaded, was in a "bigger spot."

"I think that was a more impactful catch overall," Zobrist said.

Fuld's catch helped spark the Rays' turnaround from a rough start. Could Kiermaier's, too?

"You never know," manager Joe Mad­don said.

IN CLOSING: RHP Grant Balfour declined to talk about Wednesday's seven-out save, his first outing since getting demoted from his closer role.

"Talk to the young guys," he said, smiling.

While Balfour, 0-2 with a 5.88 ERA, 10 saves and two blown saves, would rather stay under the radar, Maddon believes Wednesday's performance should boost his confidence and help him understand "that by being aggressive with the hitters, he can get guys out with his fastball, too."

"He'll be back to closer at some point," Maddon said. "But for right now, let's work it all the way back, get everything right and take it one moment at a time."

TRADE TALK: Maddon still believes the Rays can get back to .500 and into the playoff picture. But as the calendar moves to July, he is worried about trade rumors.

"It really beats guys up," Maddon said. "That's the worst part about it … when guys get into the conversation, they start reading everything and believing everything they read, which you should never do. And at that point right there is when it creates a life of its own and becomes more difficult.

"That would be my biggest concern, we'd get in that position where the rumors become so intense that it can impact play."

MEDICAL MATTERS: OF Brandon Guyer (broken left thumb) worked out with Triple-A Durham on Friday, with plans to DH today and play outfield Sunday. Maddon said depending on how Guyer feels, it will take three or four rehab games before he can come off the disabled list.

While Maddon said RHP Jeremy Hellickson was "beat up a little bit" in Thursday's rehab start — four runs on six hits over 21/3 innings for Durham — he's not concerned.

"Results weren't there, but that doesn't really matter," Maddon said. "The fact he's well is what matters."

Hellickson is scheduled to start Tuesday for the Bulls in Louisville.

MINOR MATTERS: The Rays claimed RHP Angel Sanchez off waivers from the Marlins, sending him to Double-A Montgomery and adding him to the 40-man roster. … RHP Nate Karns was scratched from Friday's start for Durham to give him a couple of extra days of rest. He felt a little tightness late in his last start. He is scheduled to pitch Wednesday against Louisville.

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