Saturday, February 24, 2018
Tampa Bay Rays

Rays' Kiermaier wants to add better offense to all-around game

BOSTON — A telling measure of how far Kevin Kiermaier has come from being a 2010 31st-round pick out of Fort Wayne, Ind., is the kind of questions he has been facing lately.

For example, whether to keep using the Rawlings glove that sports the gold-embossed label in recognition of his selection as the American League's best centerfielder, or to switch to the one he has been breaking in that is accented in platinum in honor of additionally being named the top overall defensive player.

For another, whether he should keep the Platinum Glove trophy in the Rays clubhouse for his teammates to share in or take it to his Tampa condo. (The Gold Glove will be on display at the Trop's Ted Williams Museum so fans can see it.)

"Good problems to have," Kiermaier said, laughing.

It's pretty much all good for Kiermaier, who — three days from turning 26 — has gone from being the 941st player in his draft to one of the most dynamic players in the game.

Sure, given how recklessly he plays, the financial security of a long-term contract would be nice, especially after he got just a $600 raise from last year to $514,400. And you'd think his athleticism, good looks and extreme fan appeal would lead to commercial endorsements, even playing in the smaller Tampa Bay market. (The Gap? FedEx or UPS or some other speedy package delivery? Fresh Kitchen, where he loves to eat?)

But he's the first to tell you he couldn't be more pleased with how "awesome" his life has become.

And how much better of an all-around player he wants to be.

"It's one of those things where I'm so confident in my defensive ability and I know I'm going to run the bases — even though I've had a few aggressiveness issues, I'm not worried about that, I'll learn from that," Kiermaier said.

"But pretty much the story line of my career is going to be my hitting."

Take that as a good sign that he's catching on. With unparalleled ability in centerfield — between how much ground he covers and how well he throws — and game-changing speed on the bases, the factor that will determine how much impact Kiermaier eventually will have, and how big a star be becomes, will be his offense.

Kiermaier may not become an MVP threat like the Angels' Mike Trout, but he can be a more consistent offensive force. Even before stumbling to a slow start this season, he was working on it.

"I was watching some video of my 2014 campaign, my rookie year, I could see I was confident back then but I'm so much more confident now because of how much I matured offensively, how much better I am," he said.

"It's nothing that's going to jump out at you on paper, but I've matured so much with my mental process, and my overall swing itself has been so much better. … It's all about really having a feel for what the pitcher is going to do to you in certain situations. I didn't have that thought process at the start of last year, or all of 2014. I was just a raw type of player."

His primary goal is consistency, which is what it will take to move up from eighth in the lineup as he prefers.

His speed can be an offensive weapon, but he doesn't just want to be primarily a slap hitter or bunter. Nor does he want to surrender his natural aggressiveness to walk more. He sees himself as also having "occasional" power, evidenced by his 10 homers in each season and his true delight of hitting a ball in the gap and legging out a triple.

So while pleased with his 2015 performance — a .263 average, 10 homers, 40 RBIs and .718 on-base-plus-slugging percentage (with only a .298 on-base) — he was a long way from satisfied.

"I know there was a lot more I could've done," Kiermaier said. "I know that I can hit. And I'm going to hit.

"Having a good couple months here and there last year, it pretty much means I can hit .370 in a month and I can hit .200 in a month. I know I can do it. I want to be consistent in my approach and my at-bats, to drive in runs, get on base, whatever is needed in certain situations."

So while he beats himself up over the gravity-defying catches he doesn't make, and knows there can be some tightening up on the bases, the true measure will be how much better he does at the plate.

"I know I'm a relatively young player, but I'm not using that as an excuse," Kiermaier said. "I'm ready to mature, and I want you guys, I want everybody to see that. And I think time will just tell with all that."

Marc Topkin can be reached at [email protected] Follow @TBTimes_Rays.

Comments
Impact of Tommy John surgery cuts deeply for Brent Honeywell, Rays

Impact of Tommy John surgery cuts deeply for Brent Honeywell, Rays

PORT CHARLOTTE – Two things that tell you a lot about Rays cocksure top prospect Brent Honeywell given Friday's crushing news that he indeed tore a ligament in his prized right arm and is headed for Tommy John surgery that will sideline him wel...
Updated: 6 hours ago
Rasmus says he ditched Rays to spend time with family

Rasmus says he ditched Rays to spend time with family

SARASOTA — Colby Rasmus is making a new start with the Baltimore Orioles after taking an eight-month break from baseball.Rasmus signed a minor-league contract with the Orioles this week, after abruptly leaving the Rays in midseason. The contrac...
Updated: 7 hours ago
Rays open exhibition season with 6-3 win over Pirates

Rays open exhibition season with 6-3 win over Pirates

The Rays won the home game of their opening-day, split-squad set, beating the Pirates, 6-3.1B Brad Miller, with an opposite-field double off the wall, and CF Kevin Kiermaier, with a bloop single to shallow center, provided the early offense.2B Daniel...
Updated: 12 hours ago
Rays journal: Miller time could be a good time, and more from openers

Rays journal: Miller time could be a good time, and more from openers

PORT CHARLOTTE — One of the key story lines in Rays camp is seeing what kind of bounce-back season they can get out of a healthy Brad Miller, coming off October core muscle repair surgery.And while Miller isn't feeling 100 percent — he st...
Published: 02/23/18
Split-squad Rays hold on for 6-3 win at Orioles

Split-squad Rays hold on for 6-3 win at Orioles

SARASOTA — A split-squad team of Rays held on for a 6-3 victory Friday against the Orioles at Ed Smith Stadium.Yonny Chirinos, making his debut as a Ray, tossed a pair of scoreless innings. He allowed an infield single to former Ray Tim Beckham...
Published: 02/23/18
Live blog: Rays open spring training season against Pirates, Orioles

Live blog: Rays open spring training season against Pirates, Orioles

The Rays open the exhibition season with not one, but two games today.Non-roster pitcher Vidal Nuno will start against the Pirates at 1:05 p.m. in Port Charlotte. Denard Span, Matt Duffy, Kevin Kiermaier, Wilson Ramos, Mallex Smith and Adeiny Hechava...
Published: 02/23/18
Rays’ Honeywell has torn UCL, headed for Tommy John surgery

Rays’ Honeywell has torn UCL, headed for Tommy John surgery

The Rays got the worst-case news they were dreading, that top prospect RHP Brent Honeywell has a torn UCL and is headed for Tommy John  surgery.Honeywell said he plans to have the surgery as soon as possible to expedite his return sometime in th...
Published: 02/23/18
For starters: Split squad opener for Rays – vs. Pirates and at Orioles, 1:05

For starters: Split squad opener for Rays – vs. Pirates and at Orioles, 1:05

With 15 teams training in Florida,  there usually has to be either be at least one team off or one team playing two games. And with today the official opening day of spring training, the Rays had the bad draw of having to play split squad games....
Published: 02/23/18
Rays spring training info: Friday – vs. Pirates and at Orioles

Rays spring training info: Friday – vs. Pirates and at Orioles

Friday's games:Vs. Pirates1:05, Charlotte Sports Park, 2300 El Jobean Road, Port Charlotte. Pitchers: Rays – LH Vidal Nuno; Pirates – RH Taylor Eppler.Radio: raysbaseball.com, MLB At Bat app (free with mlb.com account)Tickets: raysbasebal...
Published: 02/23/18
Sports Day Tampa Bay podcast: Rays holding their breath

Sports Day Tampa Bay podcast: Rays holding their breath

Rays top pitching prospect Brent Honeywell left practice Thursday after throwing a handful of pitches, and the fear (now confirmed) is he might need Tommy John surgery, ending his season before it begins.In his lastest podcast, Rick Stroud has the la...
Published: 02/23/18