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Kiermaier exits Saturday with left thumb sprain

Kiermaier led off the bottom of the eighth inning with an infield hit, getting injured in the process.
Tampa Bay Rays center fielder Kevin Kiermaier (39) hits a single at the bottom of the seventh inning against New York Yankees on Friday, July 05, 2019 at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg. (ALLIE GOULDING   |   Times)
Tampa Bay Rays center fielder Kevin Kiermaier (39) hits a single at the bottom of the seventh inning against New York Yankees on Friday, July 05, 2019 at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg. (ALLIE GOULDING | Times)
Published Jul. 21
Updated Jul. 21

ST. PETERSBURG — Rays manager Kevin Cash decided to keep centerfielder Kevin Kiermaier out of the starting lineup on Saturday against the White Sox. Choosing to give Kiermaier a day of rest, Cash penciled Avisail Garcia into centerfield.

With the Rays leading 1-0 late in the game, Cash brought Kiermaier in for his defense in the top of the eighth inning. Garcia moved to rightfield, and Austin Meadows exited the game. Kiermaier did not get any outfield chances in the inning.

Kiermaier led off the bottom of the eighth inning, and he softly grounded the fourth pitch of the at-bat to White Sox first baseman Jose Abreu. Gunning for an infield hit, Kiermaier slid head-first into first base and caught his left thumb on the bag. He reached safely, but he exited the game while clutching his right hand over his left. The initial diagnosis is a left thumb sprain, and he will be reevaluated on Sunday.

Kiermaier is no stranger to injuries. The centerfielder suffered a fractured right hip under similar circumstances in 2017. In the fifth inning of a June 8 home game against the White Sox, the same opponent the Rays faced this weekend, Kiermaier grounded out to first baseman Abreu. Attempting to earn an infield hit, Kiermaier slid, this time feet-first, resulting in a hairline fracture in his right hip. He missed 61 games due to the injury.

Shoring up the bullpen

Tampa Bay made a series of roster moves on Saturday to bring fresh arms to the major-league pitching staff. Primary opener and bullpen arm Ryne Stanek landed on the 10-day injured list with right hip soreness. Rays manager Kevin Cash said that Stanek has battled through the soreness throughout the season, and he hopes that Stanek’s stint off the active roster will be short. Cash specifically named righties Andrew Kittredge, Hunter Wood and Diego Castillo as potential openers in Stanek’s absence.

The Rays also optioned left-handed pitcher and two-way prospect Brendan McKay to class Triple-A Durham on Saturday. McKay struggled with his command on Friday, allowing 6 runs (5 earned) in 3 1/3 innings of work.

In a pair of corresponding moves for Stanek and McKay, the Rays activated righty Chaz Roe from the injured list and recalled Wood. Roe, who landed on the 10-day injured list with a right flexor strain retro to July 9, said that he is feeling good after throwing a pair of bullpen sessions this week. Wood, 25, was just optioned on Friday, but was immediately recalled on Saturday to replace the injured Stanek.

Miscellany

The Rays called on some old friends to honor longtime minor-league pitching coordinator Dick Bosman before Saturday’s game. Former Rays David Price, James Shields, Matt Moore and Jake McGee all contributed video tributes to Bosman, who recently retired after 17 years with the Rays. Bosman, 75, pitched 11 seasons in the majors and was the big league pitching coach for the Orioles and Rangers before joining the Rays in 2001.

Infielder Matt Duffy, making what could be his last rehab start with Durham before rejoining the active roster, slugged a home run in the third inning against the Indianapolis Indians on Saturday.

First baseman Ji-Man Choi made his first career start out of the leadoff hole on Saturday. He finished the day going 1-for-5 at the plate.

Outfielder Avisail Garcia made the start in center field on Saturday, his first official appearance at the position since 2013. Cash said that he has a lot of confidence in Garcia, noting that the outfielder has done well in right field this season. “Wherever they put me, I will try to do my best,” Garcia said. “You have more room to run (in center). I like to run, so it’s no big deal."

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