Friday, February 23, 2018
Tampa Bay Rays

Rookie Kevin Kiermaier a bright spot for Rays

ANAHEIM, Calif. — OF Kevin Kiermaier certainly makes the most of his opportunities.

Called up for two days with CF Desmond Jennings on the bereavement list, Kiermaier on Saturday got his first big-league hit then Sunday added his first home run and made a spectacular leaping catch at the centerfield wall.

"They told me it was going to be for a couple of days," Kiermaier said. "So I just wanted to contribute any way I can."

Kiermaier was down on himself for misjudging the wall and not getting a shot at catching Albert Pujols' first-inning homer, so he welcomed the chance to soar high and bounce off the wall to rob Erick Aybar in the third, showing off the extraordinary defense he is known for.

"It was one of the better ones I made," Kiermaier said. "To do it in front of all these people and behind a guy like David Price is really cool."

Kiermaier's offense still needs work, making an opposite-field homer a bit unexpected but rewarding nonetheless.

"I knew I got all of it," he said. "It was nice to see it go over and trot around the bases."

In Kiermaier's first big-league start during an April cameo, he threw out a runner at the plate to help preserve a 1-0 victory in Cincinnati. He made his major-league debut as a defensive replacement in Game 163 last season, then played in the wild-card game.

"The guy wants to be in the big leagues," manager Joe Maddon said. "He's going to get his opportunity. He's going to be here for a long time."

Could it be coming sooner? Jennings is expected back Tuesday, but Maddon said Kiermaier would fly home with the team, which has needed another lefty bat on the bench.

CATCHING ON: C Ryan Hanigan felt better but remained sidelined due to soreness in his right hamstring, the result of either a cramp or mild strain that forced him from Friday's game.

Hanigan is hoping to return Tuesday and insists he won't need to go on the disabled list. "Stamp it," he said. Jose Molina played the past two games, going 0-for-5 to drop his average to .115.

But Maddon acknowledged the DL is possible, and they will make a decision Tuesday afternoon. They will give Hanigan today to rest then put him through a pregame workout, possibly having a replacement on hand just in case.

The Rays don't have an experienced option at Triple-A Durham; Ali Solis has caught four innings in the majors and Curt Casali has played eight games above Double A. An alternative could be re-acquiring Chris Gimenez, who spent the past two seasons with the Rays mostly at Durham and is currently playing at Triple A for Texas.

FAREWELL, CESAR?: LHP Cesar Ramos said he was "extremely surprised" and "extremely frustrated" to be pulled three batters into the second Saturday, down 2-0 with two on.

The lack of confidence would seem to be the latest indication that Ramos is likely to be dropped from the rotation to make room for RHP Alex Cobb, who, if he gets through a bullpen session today okay, is set to return Thursday.

Assuming Ramos returns to long relief, a reliever would have to be dropped. RHPs Brandon Gomes, who Saturday allowed his fourth homer in five outings, and Brad Boxberger are most likely as both have options.

Maddon said RHP Josh Lueke, who does not have options, on Saturday "was about as good as we've seen him" in terms of velocity, command and composure.

Ramos' 11/3 innings were the fewest by a Rays starter — unrelated to injury or weather — since Sept. 24, 2011, when RHP Jeff Niemann went one inning.

MISCELLANY: The Rays are deciding whether to have Price pitch Friday vs. Boston on regular rest and RHP Chris Archer Saturday on seven days, or flip it. … Pujols tied Eddie Murray for 25th place with his 504th homer.

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