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Rays’ Kevin Kiermaier: ‘We’ve got to stop the bleeding’

Notes | As offensive struggles continue, the veteran outfielder says something has to change.
Blue Jays third baseman Santiago Espinal, right, throws to first base to put out the Rays' Rene Pinto, left, in the second inning Friday.
Blue Jays third baseman Santiago Espinal, right, throws to first base to put out the Rays' Rene Pinto, left, in the second inning Friday. [ JON BLACKER | AP ]
Published Jul. 2

TORONTO — As the longest-tenured Ray, Kevin Kiermaier has seen a lot of what has gone right over 10 seasons.

Which also gives him the perspective to point out what is wrong, specifically as the team continues to struggle offensively.

Speaking before Friday’s game, his first after a 10-day stint on the injured list due to left hip inflammation, Kiermaier made some interesting observations, noting that his alternative to teammate Brett Phillips’ “Baseball is Fun” T-shirt brand would be “Baseball is Hard,” given the quality of pitching they have been facing.

One was about their approaches at the plate:

“We need to do a better job of slowing the game down. Seems like the game is just fast to a lot of us right now. And hopefully we can make the proper adjustments to slowing the game down and making everything come a little bit easier.”

Another was how the offensive woes are wearing on them collectively:

“We put a lot of pressure on ourselves. … I always say over the years, ‘When we go good, it’s contagious.’ And unfortunately when we go bad, it can kind of carry over in that direction as well. I think that’s what it’s been. …

“We’ve been waiting to try to fire on all cylinders. Hasn’t happened as of yet. Hate to see us struggle the way we are because you just feel like a presence in (the clubhouse), in the dugout at times. It’s just kind of an ongoing trend at times.”

After the game, in which his misplay on a fly ball led to a five-run Toronto outburst and the Rays’ bats were again quiet as they lost for the 11th time in 16 games, Kiermaier said something has to change:

“We need to be better, plain and simple, and do what we’ve got to do to get (runs) in at a better pace. It’s easier said than done and with just how things have been going for us, it’s just one day after another. We’ve got to stop the bleeding. ... Guys in this clubhouse are the ones who can change it. So we’ve got to figure out a way to do just that.”

Pitching plans

Rays reliever David McKay throws during the sixth inning Friday. His stay with the team likely will be short.
Rays reliever David McKay throws during the sixth inning Friday. His stay with the team likely will be short. [ JON BLACKER | AP ]

Ace Shane McClanahan will pitch the 12:07 p.m. opener of Saturday’s day-night doubleheader and Drew Rasmussen, on the injured list since June 15 with a left hamstring strain, will be activated to start the 6:07 p.m. second game. Rasmussen didn’t make a rehab start, throwing three innings in a simulated game setting in Port Charlotte on Monday, but said he didn’t miss enough time that there would be “any issues with length or stamina” and he was comfortable taking the mound.

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The Rays can add a 27th man for the day, with reliever Dusten Knight, who is in Toronto and on the taxi squad, an option, or they could summon Josh Fleming or Luis Patino from Triple-A.

The Rays are still waiting to hear if lefty Jeffrey Springs, who missed Thursday’s start due to a family medical emergency, will return to pitch Sunday; if not, they could use Fleming or Patino.

Reliever David McKay, recently reacquired from the Yankees, was activated from the taxi squad and had a rough Rays debut, allowing four runs in two innings, and appeared headed back to Durham.

Miscellany

Outfielder Luke Raley and lefty Ryan Yarbrough were optioned to Durham to make room for Kiermaier and McKay. … Phillips, normally an outfielder, pitched a scoreless one-hit eighth inning, his third time on the mound this season. … The Jays’ first Canada Day in Toronto since 2019 was a festive event, with pre-game ceremonies honoring retired catcher Russell Martin and a sellout crowd of 44,445. … Harold Ramirez had his 14th multi-hit game and Ji-Man Choi his 13th.

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