Rays Kiermaier to have surgery, miss about 12 weeks

Kiermaier injured his thumb Sunday.
Published April 16, 2018|Updated April 16, 2018

UPDATE, 6:14: Kiermaier will have the surgery done Friday by Dr. Doug Carlan in St. Petersburg, the third surgery with him – right hamate bone in 2012, left wrist in 2016.

UPDATE, 5:02: Cash said Smith will get the bulk of the playing time in center in Kiermaier's absence, which sounds as much about giving him  a chance to show what he can do as not taxing Gomez. … Also, Cash said Hu was called up because of how "taxed" the bullpen is again, and that depending how Snell does tonight and Tuesday's bullpen day goes they could make an additional move and add a position player.

UPDATE, 3:55:  Kiermaier said he was expecting bad news "but hearing those words that I'm going to be out for months at a time is really hard to take right now."

Also,  Kiermaier said going on DL for extended time 3rd year in a row due to a "freak type accident" left him "shocked, surprised and sometimes it just doesn't feel real … that it has to be some kind of sick joke."

UPDATE, 2:29: Mallex Smith will start in center tonight, with Field in left and Gomez staying in right. Assuming Hu is just protection for the bullpen, it may come down to whether they want to wait for Miller to come off the DL on Friday as to whether they bring up another player. … From the sound of things, Kiermaier is expected to miss the longer end of that estimate, like 12-13 weeks.

UPDATE, 1:01: The Rays have since confirmed the Kiermaier diagnosis. Their intial plan is to call up RHP Chih-Wei Hu to add an extra arm to the bullpen.

UPDATE, 12:05: Kiermaier will have surgery for a torn ligament in his right thumb and is expected to miss 8-12 weeks, the Tampa Bay Times has learned. An announcement from the team is expected later today.

The Rays have been in this position before, each of the last two years actually, waiting for test results but expecting bad news regarding an injury to centerfielder Kevin Kiermaier.

This time it's a right thumb injury, sustained sliding headfirst into second Sunday while taking an extra base, with the potential to keep him out for what manager Kevin Cash said could be "a chunk" of the season.

Based on the similarity of the injury to what Angels star Mike Trout sustained last year on a similar play, that could mean an absence of at least seven weeks.

Kiermaier, though, injured the thumb on his right hand, which he uses to grip the ball to throw, and could mean a longer absence.  Trout tore the ligament in his left, non-throwing, hand, had surgery and came back with no issues.

Kiermaier was undergoing an MRI this morning  and the Rays should know more before tonight's game against Texas.

RELATED: Kiermaier can do anything asked except stay healthy

This will be the third straight season that Kiermaier will miss extended time.

In 2016, he broke his left wrist diving for a ball in Detroit and missed 48 games, during which the Rays struggled immensely, going 14-34.

In 2017, he fractured his right hip after awkwardly sliding feet first into first base and missed 61 games, during which the Rays went 29-32.

He also missed time during the 2012 minor-league season when he fractured both hands.

"It's beyond frustrating," Cash said after Sunday's game. "We are all tired of KK getting hurt and there's nothing he can do about. He goes about his business as hard as anyone in the game. It was a typical KK play. Busting around to second base. The guy bobbles the ball. You'd like to see a little more reward for that than missing significant time, but this is three years running now where there is a chance he's going to miss a chunk."

Rookie Johnny Field, who made his MLB debut on Saturday stepped in for Kiermaier on Sunday.

Over an extended period, the Rays may be more likely to shift veteran Carlos Gomez from right to center, where he made 1,027 of his career 1,091 outfield starts before joining the Rays this year to play right.

Another option could be to play Mallex Smith in center.

As for replacing Kiermaier on the roster, the Rays could turn to lefty hitters Micah Johnson, who was impressive during spring training, or newly acquired Jeremy Hazelbaker, though either would also have to be added to the 40-man roster. Another option would be to call up prospect Jake Bauers, though he is primarily a first baseman and has not gotten off to a good start.

Another factor in the decision on the replacement is that lefty hitting Brad Miller is aiming to come off the DL by the end of the week, so either the Kiermaier replacement, Field or Rob Refsnyder would seem likely to go then.