Sunday, November 19, 2017
Tampa Bay Rays

Fennelly: Rays' Kiermaier catching on at the plate, too

RECOMMENDED READING


ST. PETERSBURG — There are tricks to batting second. Rays centerfielder Kevin Kiermaier learned that Wednesday. I'm sure he scribbled it down after.

Note to self: Do NOT conk leadoff man on helmet with bat.

Onward.

Is this man more than a pretty glove?

Kier­maier changes games in center. It's his kingdom. He climbs walls and chases down rallies. He saves runs. Kiermaier is wins above replacement before he ever steps to the plate.

"He's the best defensive player I've ever seen," Rays manager Cash said.

"I think I'm the best defensive player in the game," Kiermaier said. "And that's not me being cocky. I just don't feel like any other outfielder can control a game like I can from out there."

Well, it's a little cocky.

Love it.

The Rays just need more of that when Kiermaier picks up a bat.

Which brings us to the experiment.

Kiermaier is batting No. 2 in the order. Cash moved him up two weeks ago. Kiermaier is hitting. He's walking. He's bunting. He's stealing. He's using his speed. It's as if somebody got to him.

Somebody did.

The 2015 Platinum Glove Award winner doesn't have to be Tony Gwynn. But he has to make a bigger dent, more than a .220 average, his current number. Kiermaier, 26, is way too young to be permanently labeled all field, no hit. There's time to grow. But the Rays need to know.

"I'm happy about moving up there," Kiermaier said Monday after three hits, including a three-run homer, a walk and two stolen bases. "The message is that this is something they want next year, and they want me to get comfortable right now."

True, he's 0-for-8 since Monday, but Kiermaier has his marching orders, as well as his walking, bunting and running orders.

"We called him in, talked to him," Cash said. "We told him we had an opportunity here the rest of the season, because we think that to be the kind of offense we want, he has got to be the guy creating havoc before the big boys come up there."

Kiermaier is hitting .255 (14-for-55) since moving up in the order. He already has more walks (30) than he did last season, despite missing nearly two months this year with a broken hand.

On the Rays' last road trip, the new KK laid down three bunts for hits. Two of the bunts started out as sacrifices. Kiermaier's speed made them something more. He hadn't bunted for a single in more than a year.

"I know now that I don't have to lay down a perfect bunt," Kiermaier said.

It took this long to figure that out?

The education of Kevin Kiermaier continues. He's embracing the game the Rays want from him, the game the next step in his career demands.

Take what is given, use your gifts. A walk is as good as a hit. A hit and steal are as good as a hustle double. And anything is better than a weak pop fly.

"I want them to trust me that I can hit up there," Kiermaier said.

"I think he's learned a ton the last couple of weeks," third baseman Evan Longoria said. "He's putting the ball in play. He's moving the ball. He's trusting his ability, his legs, really."

"It's a situation where defenders now have to be aware of KK," hitting coach Derek Shelton said.

The broken hand didn't help Kiermaier's 2016. But he batted .263 in each of his first two seasons, seen as a bonus given his glove.

Only …

"I don't want to be just a defensive guy," Kiermaier said. "I want to be a guy who does damage at the plate and on the base paths."

Batter up.

Comments
Topkin: As Rays start dealing, how far will they go?

Topkin: As Rays start dealing, how far will they go?

After collecting intelligence at last week’s GM meetings, the Rays soon will launch their offseason mission of trading at least a couple of veterans to reduce payroll.The question is how far they will go — how many players they deal, and how big of n...
Updated: 10 hours ago
Rocco Baldelli’s promotion on Rays coaching staff now makes him major league field coordinator

Rocco Baldelli’s promotion on Rays coaching staff now makes him major league field coordinator

The Rays completed the reorganization of their coaching staff by giving Rocco Baldelli the title of major league field coordinator.In being promoted from first-base coach, Baldelli will implement ideas and information from the staff, while assisting ...
Published: 11/17/17
Rays hope to cash in on Alex Cobb leaving

Rays hope to cash in on Alex Cobb leaving

LAKE BUENA VISTA — The Rays were banking on pitcher Alex Cobb declining their one-year, $17.4 million qualifying offer based on the lure of a longer-term and more lucrative deal elsewhere as a free agent.With that decision official Thursday, now the ...
Published: 11/16/17
Commissioner Rob Manfred likes Ybor City stadium site, but must see more support to keep baseball in Tampa Bay

Commissioner Rob Manfred likes Ybor City stadium site, but must see more support to keep baseball in Tampa Bay

LAKE BUENA VISTA — MLB commissioner Rob Manfred didn’t want to talk Thursday about what might happen if the current effort to build the Rays a new stadium at the Ybor City site falls through."I’m more focused on working with the community to figure o...
Published: 11/16/17
A message to Rays fans from Alex Cobb

A message to Rays fans from Alex Cobb

Here is a message from RHP Alex Cobb after he officially left the Rays Thursday in declining their one-year, $17.4-milllion qualifying offer to seek a bigger and longer pact elsewhere:"Getting to this point in my career is truly bittersweet."Twelve y...
Published: 11/16/17
UPDATE: Rays to gain draft pick for loss of free agent pitcher Alex Cobb

UPDATE: Rays to gain draft pick for loss of free agent pitcher Alex Cobb

UPDATE, 5:01: Cobb did not accept the offer by the deadline, as expected.DEVELOPING: Sometime before today's 5 p.m. deadline, the Rays will get official word that their $17.4-million slight gamble on Alex Cobb paid off.The Rays made the free-agent ri...
Published: 11/16/17
As he prepares to leave the Rays, how will you remember Alex Cobb?

As he prepares to leave the Rays, how will you remember Alex Cobb?

Presuming Alex Cobb declines the Rays’ one-year, $17.4-million qualifying offer by 5 p.m. today, he has pitched his last game for Tampa Bay.Cobb has received preliminary interest from "lots of teams" already, agent Dan Horwits said. The Cubs and Twin...
Published: 11/16/17
MLB commissioner Rob Manfred says progress must continue on new stadium to keep Rays

MLB commissioner Rob Manfred says progress must continue on new stadium to keep Rays

MLB commissioner Rob Manfred made clear Thursday that identification of a site for a new Rays stadium is merely the first step for area leaders to show they want to keep the team long-term and that there needs to "consistent forward movement" on the ...
Published: 11/16/17
Sternberg: Tampa Bay Rays' share of new ballpark could be $150 million

Sternberg: Tampa Bay Rays' share of new ballpark could be $150 million

LAKE BUENA VISTA — Tampa Bay Rays principal owner Stuart Sternberg said Wednesday that the team is "genuinely excited" about the proposed Ybor City site for a new stadium and more than "cautiously optimistic" the project can be completed. But ...
Published: 11/15/17
Updated: 11/16/17

Rays journal: No big deals at GM meetings, but possible groundwork laid

By MARC TOPKINLAKE BUENA VISTA — Rays officials left the GM meetings without making any big deals — such as trading Alex Colome or Chris Archer to the Cardinals — but more knowledgeable about the possibilities. "Expectations were to utilize these few...
Published: 11/15/17