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Rays journal: Kevin Kiermaier plays it safe by not trying to take on outfield wall

Rays centerfielder Kevin Kiermaier is unable to catch a ball hit by the Marlins' JT Riddle during the sixth inning on Wednesday, July 4, 2018. Riddle's triple scores Starlin Castro. [Associated Press]
Rays centerfielder Kevin Kiermaier is unable to catch a ball hit by the Marlins' JT Riddle during the sixth inning on Wednesday, July 4, 2018. Riddle's triple scores Starlin Castro. [Associated Press]
Published Jul. 5, 2018|Updated Jul. 5, 2018

MIAMI — Why didn't CF Kevin Kiermaier catch the sixth-inning drive by the Marlins' J.T. Riddle that scored their first run and set up their second?

Because he didn't want to risk injury.

Missing three chunks of three straight seasons seems to have Kiermaier thinking about playing it safe rather than once again being sorry.

Kiermaier, who ran a long way starting from left-center, said he pulled up in pursuit to avoid a high-impact collision with the Marlins Park wall. The ball landed — always surprisingly when Kiermaier has it in his sights somewhat awkwardly— for an RBI triple, with Riddle then scoring on a ground out.

"That was a play right there where I feel like if I would have tried catching it, I really would have hit that wall running full speed." he said. "Those are the plays you try to avoid. Now if we're up by one in the ninth inning, I'm going to go and catch that and just see what happens. In that play there, I want to make it, but at the same time I knew I would have hit the wall pretty hard."

Manager Kevin Cash said Kiermaier had too much ground to cover and "I didn't think it was necessarily a catchable ball.''

The Mallex effect

Cash took rare public disciplinary action by pulling OF Mallex Smith from Tuesday's game in the fourth inning for being a repeat offender in missing signs. In this case, Smith broke from first when he had a red light, and with the shortstop breaking to second, the Marlins turned a double play that killed a Rays rally. "We know the signs,'' Cash said. "They're pretty black and white. Or red and green.'' Though Smith was not in the lineup Wednesday, Cash made it sound like it was a one-day issue and planned to talk with Smith about it. Smith said he didn't expect to get benched and didn't know what the repercussions would be going forward. "He's the manager, it's his call,'' Smith said. "We'll see.'' The only other time Cash took such action was pulling OF Steven Souza Jr. from a 2016 game for a lack of hustle on the basepaths.

Arched up

RHP Chris Archer (abdominal strain) felt good after pitching well in his Tuesday rehab game with the Class A Stone Crabs, throwing 54 pitches over four no-hit innings, and Cash sounded like they were leaning toward activating him for a Monday return, albeit on a limited pitch count: "Let's say it's 65-75 pitches that he can provide. If we got that route, it's 65-75 pretty good pitches in theory.''

Call to arms

The Rays added two fresh arms to a bullpen further taxed by Tuesday's 16-inning game and LHP Vidal Nuno's hamstring strain. RHPs Andrew Kittredge and Ryan Weber, both with the Rays earlier this season, were called up from Triple-A Durham. To make room, the Rays put Nuno on the 10-day disabled list and optioned RHP Austin Pruitt to Durham. Weber had to be re-added to the 40-man roster, and the Rays made room there by moving RHP Wilmer Font (lat strain) from the 10- to the 60-day DL, delaying his return until Aug. 30. Weber was then optioned back to Durham after pitching five innings, and another pitcher is expected to be called up for Friday's game against the Mets.

Lending a hand to add arms

Rays travel director Chris Westmoreland had to work out all the logistics after Tuesday's marathon to get Kittredge and Weber from Durham, N.C., to Miami on Wednesday morning, but it took a little bit of help from Triple-A Bulls teammate Forrest Snow. Though Kittredge got the 1 a.m. wakeup call about the promotion, Weber didn't pick up as he had his phone on vibrate, planning for a good night's rest since he was supposed to start Wednesday for Durham. A team official eventually called Snow, who lived in the same apartment complex as Weber. Snow didn't know what unit, but his girlfriend knew Weber's fiancee and called her around 2 a.m. to ask. Around 2:30 a.m., Snow and RHP Chih-Wei Hu went over and banged on Weber's door until he answered. "They're like, 'You're going to the big leagues.' I said, 'Okay, when?' 7:15 flight. So I packed and went back to sleep for 45 minutes," Weber said. Kittredge, meanwhile, went to the Durham stadium to get his equipment bag and grabbed Weber's, and they met at the airport. Though Weber ended up flying coach, Kittredge got the last open seat in first class. "I answered my phone,'' Kittredge joked.

Quote of the day

"It was a good one. We'll get a bill for some Gatorade coolers.''
manager Kevin Cash, on OF Carlos Gomez's dugout tirade Wednesday

Miscellany

• RHP Ryne Stanek will be the opener Friday against the Mets, though the Rays are still deciding who will follow.

• With several veterans rested, rookie 1B Jake Bauers made his first big-league start in left. Bauers has played there often in the minors and several times as the result of in-game moves since his promotion.

• The Rays plan to continue talks up until Friday's signing deadline with second draft pick LHP Shane McClanahan of USF.

• The Rays were shut out for the sixth time.

• Top draft pick LHP Matt Liberatore is slated to make his pro debut Friday for the Gulf Coast League team.

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