ST. PETERSBURG — With Kevin Kiermaier out for at least 10 days and Manuel Margot potentially for the rest of the season, the Rays replaced their two frontline outfielders on the active roster by calling up Jonathan Aranda and Luke Raley.
Kiermaier received a cortisone shot in his left hip Tuesday after being forced from Monday’s game, which he called “a breaking point” in what has been an issue for more than a year.
He expects the shot to help, having gone through a similar experience in the spring. If so, he plans to return after a minimum 10-day stay on the injured list. “Definitely have some issues in there,” he said. “Hopefully, (I) respond well to this cortisone shot and get back out there and see what I can do.”
Margot underwent an MRI late Tuesday afternoon, and manager Kevin Cash said after the game the Rays were waiting for several doctors to review the imaging to get a sense of the specific injury to his right knee, what type of rehab or repair is recommended and how long he will be out.
But the expectation seems to be that the injury — which occurred traumatically Monday when Margot crashed into the rightfield wall chasing a ninth-inning drive and had to be taken off the field on a cart — will sideline him for at least several months if not the full season.
“Like I said (Monday) night, (we) anticipate he’s going to be out for a while,” Cash said.
Margot’s extended absence is significant in many ways, as he is one of the Rays’ best right-handed hitters, a smooth defender in all three outfield spots and a team leader, especially among the core of younger Spanish-speaking players. “He’s like the papa of the group,” pitcher Luis Patino said in March.
In turning to Aranda and Raley, both left-handed hitters, the Rays will find themselves mixing and matching to cobble lineups together even more frequently than before. Cash said he will use rookie Josh Lowe, who was called up on Monday, and Brett Phillips to cover centerfield. Randy Arozarena will be in leftfield when he is not the designated hitter. Some combination of Vidal Brujan, Lowe and Raley will fill out the corner outfield spots.
Aranda, 24, is a developmental success for the Rays, signing in July 2015 out of his native Mexico for $130,000 and working his way through eight levels of minor league play to become one of the best hitters in their system.
“It’s been a long process, it’s been a seven-year process up to here,” Aranda said via team interpreter Manny Navarro. “But I’m very happy to be here with the team.”
Aranda got the word late Monday night after the Triple-A Durham team completed a seven-plus-hour bus ride to Jacksonville. “I was a little tired, obviously, it was a long drive, but that call woke me up,” he said.
Aranda reached out to his parents, Jessica and Humberto, and they immediately made plans to get from Mexico to St. Petersburg to see him play for the first time anywhere in the United States since they didn’t make the trip when he was in the minors.
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Aranda was the team and league MVP in 2021 at Double-A Montgomery and was off to a strong start with Durham this season, hitting .310 with 11 homers, 40 RBIs and an .898 OPS in 63 games. He is considered somewhat limited defensively but has worked hard to be able to handle first, second and third base. Cash indicated that Aranda would be used at all three spots, as well as designated hitter.
“He’s always been a guy that can hit, he can lengthen out at-bats,” Cash said.
Raley, 27, made his debut last year for the Dodgers, from whom the Rays acquired him during spring training, and was excited to be back in the majors.
After a spring/early-season quad issue, Raley has been playing well at Durham, hitting .299 with seven homers, 25 RBIs and a .948 OPS in 24 games. He also can play first but likely will be used just in the corner outfield and DH spots.
“It feels good,” he said. “I’m happy to be here and happy to have the opportunity to help the Rays win baseball games.”
Losing two of their best outfielders at the same time is the latest in what has been a season-long plague of injuries to key players for the Rays. Among others sidelined are shortstop Wander Franco, second baseman Brandon Lowe, catcher Mike Zunino, starters Drew Rasmussen and Patino, and high-leverage relievers JP Feyereisen and Andrew Kittredge.
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