Friday, December 15, 2017
Tampa Bay Rays

Rays' Kiermaier nearly passes Jose Molina on home run trot (w/video)

OAKLAND, Calif. — The Rays had plenty of action on the bases Wednesday with 13 hits, five walks and a hit batter combining to score seven runs.

But the highlight by far was Kevin Kiermaier's fourth-inning home run, not so much for how hard or far he hit it but how on his trot he nearly passed C Jose Molina — who had reached on an infield single — after they both rounded second.

"There was some separation, air traffic control was okay with all of that, but he was gaining rapidly," manager Joe Maddon said.

Kiermaier was unsure if the ball had gone out or hit the wall before caroming back onto the field, so he was running hard. Molina saw it go out and was, well, moving at his usual pace.

"I didn't know what was going on,' Kiermaier said. "Once I got around second base Jose was right there. I wasn't about to stop and let him get some distance before I got going again, so I did the slowest trot ever the whole way home. So it was unique."

Molina admitted that he made it more so, slowing his pace even more over the last 90 feet.

"I couldn't do anything but laugh," Kiermaier said. "I try not to create any attention toward myself, but I was like, is this really happening right now. We're barely moving. It was pretty bizarre how everything worked out, but I'll take it."

SIGN OF THE TIMES: There was a clear reason C Curt Casali had to use hand signals rather than the traditional finger indicators in calling pitches in Tuesday night's 3-0 loss: LHP Drew Smyly was having trouble seeing.

Smyly said it has been an issue his whole career, usually, but not always, dependent on the lighting. He warned Casali during warmups and they quickly discussed backup plans.

Casali first tried neon orange stickers — made for that purpose — on his fingernails in the first inning. But Smyly, in his first start for the Rays since being acquired from the Tigers, said that didn't help.

They switched to the hand signals, with Casali touching different parts of his body, similar to how a third-base coach gives signs. "It could be where I touch or when I touch it," Casali said, declining to be more specific.

Obviously that made the chore of catching a new pitcher even harder for the rookie.

"I hadn't really come across somebody who really can't see that well," he said. "It was something he did in Detroit … so we tried it. You could see it was hard. There were different sequences where sometimes I would forget what I was calling. But I think we got better, and the next time I'll be more prepared."

Smyly, who said he has come to prefer the hand signals, has had his vision checked but doesn't plan to do anything. It should be noted, he has no trouble throwing the ball where he wants to.

"I probably should wear contacts, but I don't want to," he said. "I don't like the idea of putting anything in my eyes."

MINOR MATTERS: C Justin O'Conner, a Florida State League All-Star and an All-Star Futures Game selection, was promoted to Double-A Montgomery. … RHP Ryne Stanek, a 2013 first-round pick, went on the DL at advanced Class A Charlotte with shoulder fatigue; the Rays say it was more precautionary than serious.

MISCELLANY: The Rays went 3-for-14 with runners in scoring position Wednesday, 4-for-29 for the series. … OF Wil Myers (right wrist) is set to join Triple-A Durham today for two days of workouts, with the chance he'll begin a rehab assignment Saturday. … 1B James Loney extended his streak of reaching base to 25 games; his career high is 30. … With two doubles, Ben Zobrist went back ahead of Evan Longoria for the franchise lead with 219. … Maddon said playing a day game Wednesday and having today off should be a benefit before playing three straight day games in Chicago.

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