ST. PETERSBURG — Rays centerfielder Kevin Kiermaier is known for covering a lot of ground, maybe as much as anyone in the majors.
Tuesday he appeared to overstep his bounds, basically jumping in front of leftfielder Randy Arozarena to make a catch and throw home — unsuccessfully — to stop the A’s from taking a 2-1 lead in the sixth.
Kiermaier, having “thought long and hard” about his explanation, said he knew how the play looked, to anyone watching as well as to Arozarena, but was certain he made the right move, even though he was running to his right and Arozarena was lined up for the catch.
In part because of his skills as “the best defensive outfielder in the game” and because of the game situation, knowing his team has been struggling.
“I’m doing everything in my power to preserve the tie,” Kiermaier said. “And I have one of the best arms in the big leagues. ... I know I surprised Randy. …
“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.
“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 I’m a playmaker out there, and I’m very confident in my abilities.”
Kiermaier said he will talk to Arozarena at the right time.
“I’m sure he’s not too thrilled with me, and it is what it is in that sense,” Kiermaier said. “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. ... 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.”
Manager Kevin Cash has said a couple times the Rays will be “creative” in how they use their pitching to navigate the current stretch of playing 17 straight days, doing so while missing seven relievers and one starter.
They already have summoned three young arms from the alternate site, using Josh Fleming in a starter/bulk inning role, and trying Brent Honeywell (who was sent back down) and Luis Patino as extended/multi-inning openers. If they opt for another call-up, lefty Shane McClanahan could be next in line. Tyler Glasnow is set to start Wednesday, and the Rays haven’t said what they’re doing after that.
Collin McHugh and lefty Cody Reed could rejoin the bullpen for next week’s West Coast trip if all goes well. Reed threw well Tuesday in his first bullpen session since receiving a Botox shot to address numbness and weakness in his left thumb. McHugh (back strain) has thrown twice. Cash said they will throw to hitters on Thursday in Port Charlotte, the last time before minor-leaguers head north, then again at the Trop over the weekend.
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