What was Rays centerfielder Kevin Kiermaier thinking in running far to his right and jumping in front of leftfielder Randy Arozarena to make a catch and unsuccessful throw home in the sixth inning of Tuesday’s 4-3 win over Oakland?
Here are 795 of Kiermaier’s words, spread over nearly five minutes, to answer that question and a follow up:
“Thought long and hard about this, and I’ve got to tread lightly with my wording on it, but I know what it looked like from everyone else’s viewpoint or vantage point, whatever we want to call it. I’m in a unique position with what my defensive skillset is, and I’ll never shy away from that. I believe I’m the best defensive outfielder in the game. I’d put my talents up with anyone, and I’m very confident in saying that.
“Now with that being said, on the play, I always tell my outfielders — especially when there’s a sac fly situation — I tell them, ‘Hey, if I can get to this area, I’m throwing.’ And I’ve played with some guys who have really good arms next to me, and I always have confidence in the guys next to me, there’s no doubt about that whatsoever. And that play right there, (Oakland’s) Mitch Moreland had enough height on it where I knew right away I could get behind it and get a read, work my momentum back towards the plate. And from Randy’s standpoint, it’s a play you hardly ever see. I’ve done it before, and it’s worked in my favor back in the minor leagues, and I did it one time back in St. Louis with Corey Dickerson there in left and it was a very close play.
“But when it comes to that — I’m going to ramble here for a second, so you guys can just take whatever quote you want from this, but I have to explain this because I’m going to be thinking about this the rest of the night.
“(It’s a) 1-1 game, team hasn’t been playing very good. I’m doing everything in my power to preserve the tie. And I have one of the best arms in the big leagues, and I’ve had that since the day I came here. I got over there, and I know I could’ve got behind it. And I know I surprised Randy. I know I surprised him. He was camped, there’s no doubt about that whatsoever. But in that moment — if we’re up 3-1, 4-1, and if we’re playing a little bit better as of late, I don’t even think about it.
“But in that moment right there, pre-pitch, I’m saying, ‘If I can get to any ball, I’m going and I’m going to try to make the play.’ And obviously, once again, I think I caught Randy off guard. He kind of stood his ground, and that hindered my ability to get behind the ball a little bit more than what I wanted. Rightfully so by Randy; he did nothing wrong in that play whatsoever. And I tried making a play out of it, because I want to throw right there. I trust my arm and my ability to get the runner right there. And obviously, it didn’t work out for us. It probably looked a certain way from everyone’s view. But at the same time, once again, I’m a playmaker out there, and I’m very confident in my abilities.
“I know I could have done it if circumstances were a little bit different. But once again, if anyone’s at fault, it’s me for doing that. I trust Randy and his ability, but in that moment right there, I was trying to get to a certain spot and make a throw and it didn’t work out. And I’m upset over it with myself. But at the same time, I just listen to my instincts out there and I’m doing everything I can to try to win games. At the end of the day, that’s all I want to do. And I’ll just leave it at that.”
(Question: Would you think you’d go and talk to Randy? Do you feel any need to clear the air with him or explain it to him? He didn’t seem overly happy in his initial reaction.)
“He doesn’t have to be happy with me. I’ve told my teammates and for years now — I’m here to make friends with my brothers out there I’m going to battle with each and every night. But, once again, if any other centerfielder’s out there, it might not be the right play. But I’m very confident I could have made that play, and I’ll have a convo with him, let the dust settle. I’m sure he’s not too thrilled with me, and it is what it is in that sense. I can’t sit here and assume, because I haven’t talked to him. But it’s going to be a tough convo, because he might not see eye-to-eye about it forever. And I can plead my case. He can plead his.
“My arm feels really good, feels really powerful. And once again, if a ball’s hit in the air and I can get to it, I want to throw. And I think that gives our team the best chance of winning, and I’ll stand behind that any day of the week.”
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