Sunday, June 17, 2018
Tampa Bay Rays

Rays' Kevin Kiermaier wins Gold Glove award (w/video)

BOCA RATON — A couple of days before winning his first Gold Glove award for fielding excellence Tuesday, Rays centerfielder Kevin Kiermaier sat alone in his Tampa apartment already plotting how he could play better next season.

He thought back to this time last year when he committed himself to improving over his previous work, catalogued a series of catches and throws he failed to make this season and came away convinced that there is more to come.

"I know I'm going to be better in 2016," Kiermaier said, "even though that might seem like a stretch because of how I played this year."

That bar is obviously pretty high, as Kiermaier, 25, kept adding to a loop of highlight-reel catches and throws (leading all centerfielders with 15 assists), combining speed, athleticism, instincts and aggressiveness in his first full big-league season to post one of the most impressive overall defensive performances.

"This is the most satisfying feeling ever," Kiermaier said at a Tropicana Field reception, replete with a Gold Glove cake. "It's such a great honor. … I was hoping throughout the whole year that I'd done enough that it would be difficult not to give the award to me."

Winning the Gold Glove, over the Blue Jays' Kevin Pillar and the Angels' Mike Trout, was the most significant of a series of honors and accolades that have come Kiermaier's way. He won the Fielding Bible award (determined by vote and statistics) and posted staggering totals in a series of defensive metrics, including a record 42 Defensive Runs Saved. He also had a hefty margin in the SABR Defensive Index that factors in for about 25 percent of the Gold Glove voting.

The Rays had the best view as the baseball world got to see just how good he was.

"He's a weapon," Rays baseball operations president Matt Silverman said at the GM meetings in Boca Raton. "He's a weapon on defense, he's a weapon to our pitching staff. He's someone who adds a different level of excitement to our game. He plays with his hair on fire. He makes incredible plays. And he makes some incredibly difficult plays look routine."

WILL VRAGOVIC | Times

Kevin Kiermaier lays out to catch a fly ball hit by Seattle Mariners catcher Welington Castillo in the eighth inning of a game on May 26 at Tropicana Field.

"There's KK and then there's 29 other centerfielders," Rays manager Kevin Cash said at the Trop. "That's no disrespect to the other centerfielders, but we get to see him on a nightly basis. He's as special a player as we've come across."

Kiermaier's emergence is even more impressive given where he came from: a 31st-round pick out of Fort Wayne, Ind., who spent four years working his way through the minors earning a reputation as a defensive specialist and developing enough offensively to get the chance to play in the majors.

WILL VRAGOVIC | Times

Kevin Kiermaier makes a throw from centerfield to prevent a run after catching a fly ball by Kansas City Royals catcher Salvador Perez in the fourth inning of a game Aug. 29 at Tropicana Field.

"Kevin is proof that baseball is a game of opportunity and when he was given the chance, he took advantage of it," agent Larry Reynolds said at the GM meetings. "We are talking about a 31st-round draft selection, who has worked his tail off to not only get to the big leagues but excel at the highest level. It's a great accomplishment, well deserved and we are very happy for him. With this recognition, more people will take notice and realize just how good he is."

Kiermaier hopes to give them plenty of reason, talking about creating a legacy to show the importance of defense after winning the first of what he hopes will be a series of gold charms.

WILL VRAGOVIC | Times

Kevin Kiermaier catches a fly ball by New York Yankees shortstop Didi Gregorius to end the top of the second inning of a game Sept. 15 at Tropicana Field.

"It's just such a cool feeling," Kiermaier said. "I can't thank the managers and coaches enough for selecting me. I really didn't think something like this would be possible, but here I am. Hopefully this is something that will continue to happen in my career."

Kiermaier is the fifth Ray to win a Gold Glove, joining third baseman Evan Longoria (who has two and was a finalist this year, losing out to Baltimore's Manny Machado), leftfielder Carl Crawford, first baseman Carlos Peña and pitcher Jeremy Hellickson.

Getty Images

Kevin Kiermaier catches a fly ball hit by Manny Machado of the Baltimore Orioles in the first inning of a game Aug. 31 at Oriole Park at Camden Yards.

"This is just crazy to me," Kiermaier said. "To get recognition from people like (Yankees manager) Joe Girardi, it puts a smile on my face. Deep down, I'm a lot more excited than I'm showing. This is all I've ever wanted to do in my life. This is such a cool thing."

Times staff writer Rodney Page contributed to this report. Contact Marc Topkin at [email protected]. Follow @TBTimes_Rays.

 
Comments
For starters: Rays at Yankees, looking to avoid a four-game sweep

For starters: Rays at Yankees, looking to avoid a four-game sweep

UPDATE, 11:37: Interesting decision by the Rays to move Adames to 2B today and reinstall Hechavarria at SS as he came off DL following Arroyo injury.Here is the Rays lineup:Duffy 3bBauers 1bRamos cCron dhAdames 2bHechavarria ssGomez rfRefsnyder lfFie...
Updated: 12 hours ago
Peering into the crystal baseball to see what Rays could look like in 2019

Peering into the crystal baseball to see what Rays could look like in 2019

The Rays are still talking, as they should, about playing for something this season. The reality is that almost every move they've made, going back to the end of last season, and in some cases further, has been about 2019 and beyond.Clearing out vete...
Updated: 11 hours ago
Rays lose again to Yankees, this time 4-1

Rays lose again to Yankees, this time 4-1

NEW YORK — Kevin Cash was not going to go all Lou Piniella on his Rays, raging and ripping and roaring over their latest mess, a 4-1 Saturday loss to the Yankees that didn't feel that close.Which is too bad because Piniella, the volcanic former...
Published: 06/16/18
Rays journal: Arroyo on DL, Hechavarria returns

Rays journal: Arroyo on DL, Hechavarria returns

NEW YORK — Just when it seemed like SS Adeiny Hechavarria might not play another game for the Rays, he will rejoin them on Sunday.The Rays announced after Saturday's 4-1 loss that INF Christian Arroyo was placed on the DL due to an oblique stra...
Published: 06/16/18
Marc Topkin’s takeaways from Rays-Yankees

Marc Topkin’s takeaways from Rays-Yankees

RHP Ryne Stanek did his job as the opener just fine in getting four outs on Saturday, but for the Rays' unorthodox pitching plan to work it takes a team effort. And LHP Ryan Yarbrough's inability to throw strikes quickly put them in a hole.The experi...
Published: 06/16/18
For starters: Rays at Yankees, trying to break through

For starters: Rays at Yankees, trying to break through

UPDATE, 11:49: Cash said he played Cron at 1B in an effort to get him more involved in the game, indicated he may do so again Sunday (with Bauers off vs. LH Sabathia) and should have done so more as Cron struggled. … Cash reiterated that CF Kev...
Published: 06/16/18
Rays owner Stuart Sternberg frustrated, but optimistic

Rays owner Stuart Sternberg frustrated, but optimistic

NEW YORK — So what does the boss — lowercase, of course, around here — think of this up-and-down, hot-and-cold Rays season so far? Appropriately, a variety of things.In a 30-minute chat with the Tampa Bay Times before Friday's 5-0 l...
Published: 06/15/18
Rays journal: Nathan Eovaldi pitches well against his ex-team but gets no help

Rays journal: Nathan Eovaldi pitches well against his ex-team but gets no help

NEW YORK — RHP Nathan Eovaldi made an impressive return to Yankee Stadium on Friday to face his high-powered former teammates.It's too bad he didn't get any help from his current mates, in what ended up a 5-0 Rays loss.Eovaldi was in command an...
Published: 06/15/18
Marc Topkin’s takeaways from Rays-Yankees

Marc Topkin’s takeaways from Rays-Yankees

Give RHP Nathan Eovaldi credit for not letting emotions get in the way in his return to Yankee Stadium. He said he planned to treat it as all business, despite memories and friendships and he did just that, working impressively into the eighth.The Ra...
Published: 06/15/18
For starters: Rays at Yankees, with Eovaldi back on a familiar mound

For starters: Rays at Yankees, with Eovaldi back on a familiar mound

Coming off Thursday's 4-3 loss, the Rays will face the Yankees again tonight, and they are starting a pitcher quite familiar with the Yankee Stadium mound, RHP Nathan Eovaldi.Having spent 2015 and 2016 with the Yankees until sustaining the elbow inju...
Published: 06/15/18