ST. PETERSBURG — Centerfielder Kevin Kiermaier said before Wednesday’s game he didn’t think picking up a Toronto pitching data card after a play at the plate and bringing it to the Rays dugout Monday was wrong and definitely not as big a deal as being portrayed. He said he didn’t care what the Blue Jays or others thought and he was over it and done talking about it.
But after Kiermaier was hit square in the back by Jays reliever Ryan Borucki to start the eighth inning in Wednesday’s final regular-season game between the teams, Kiermaier had something else to say looking ahead to the playoffs, for which the Rays clinched a berth.
“I hope we play those guys. I really do,” he said. “... The motivation’s there. That’s all that needs to be said.”
Kiermaier and his Rays mates had a few other things to say, especially since manager Kevin Cash had apologized on Tuesday and Jays manager Charlie Montoyo, a former Rays coach, said it was “agua under the bridge.”
Kiermaier and Cash both said the pitch was “intentional,” though Borucki and Montoyo insisted it wasn’t. Both benches and bullpens emptied after the incident, and the umpires agreed with the Rays as Borucki, and later pitching coach Pete Walker, were ejected.
Kiermaier called it “a weak move, to be quite honest,” and added this zinger about the 93.4 mph pitch: “Didn’t hurt by any means.’' Cash said he was “disappointed.” Second baseman Brandon Lowe said it was “kind of bush league. There was no point for that. There was no reason, not this late in the year. Extremely uncalled for.”
Earlier, Kiermaier said he was stunned at how much was made of the card issue: “I am just shocked to see what has transpired of all this, to be honest.”
He said he had no deceitful motives (“not my intention, by any means”) when he picked up the card that had been dislodged from catcher Alejandro Kirk’s wristband and contained scouting info on how Jays reliever Tayler Saucedo would pitch Rays hitters.
Kiermaier said he first thought it was his outfield positioning card, realized quickly as he headed off the field that it wasn’t, but said “at that point, I’m not giving it back. Not going to go sit there and walk to the other dugout or find another way.”
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Asked why he didn’t just drop the card or hand it off rather than take it to the dugout and give it to Rays coach Paul Hoover, Kiermaier said, “We’re making this way too complex. There wasn’t a whole lot going through my mind. I didn’t even care that I had it in my hand. …. I didn’t look at it at all, still haven’t looked at it, don’t even know what the heck was on it.”
Kiermaier said there have been other incidents involving the cards, which have become standard equipment for most players. He noted that last week his fell out after a slide into second and Detroit infielder Niko Goodrum tried to grab it. “I jokingly just put my foot on it and said, ‘You can’t have it,” Kiermaier said.
• The Rays scored seven or more runs for a majors-most 58th time.
• Triple-A Durham’s game was rained out, but shortstop Wander Franco ran and took ground balls in a three-inning simulated game as a test of his previously strained right hamstring. He is slated to play all seven innings in the first game of the Bulls’ doubleheader Thursday, and if all goes well rejoin the Rays on Friday.
• Designated hitter Nelson Cruz didn’t play a second straight day; Cash said he has been feeling “under the weather” but was available.
• Austin Meadows- three-run homer, his first hit with runners in scoring position since Sept. 3 (0-for-12 since) gave him 103 RBIs, ninth most by a Ray in a season.
• Rookie Shane Baz, who made a dazzling debut Monday, will make his next start Sunday.
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