BALTIMORE — Though not surprising, Monday’s news provided a sense of finality for two key Rays veterans: centerfielder Kevin Kiermaier and catcher Mike Zunino will miss the rest of the season due to upcoming surgeries.
Kiermaier will have surgery Aug. 3 to clean up the labrum in his left hip, and the degree of repair needed will determine if he will be ready to start next season.
Zunino is having surgery Thursday to address symptoms of thoracic outlet syndrome, specifically numbness and tingling in his left arm. He is expected to be ready for the start of spring training.
Whether they have played their last games for the Rays is in question, as both are in the last guaranteed years of their contracts with Tampa Bay.
The Rays have a $13 million option on Kiermaier for 2023, but seem more likely to pay the $2.5 million buyout. He made a team-high $12 million this season. Zunino is a free agent after this season, for which he was paid $7 million.
Kiermaier, 32, has spent his entire career with the Rays, working his way from a 31st-round draft pick in 2010 to a three-time Gold Glove winner and evolving into the clubhouse leader of the team.
“Unfortunate, no doubt about it,” Rays manager Kevin Cash said. “I think there’s time for a lengthier discussion down the road about just the impact that he has had, but certainly are going to miss him this year.”
Kiermaier was sidelined twice this season with hip issues. He indicated July 16 that season-ending surgery seemed likely, but said he was still considering all scenarios and wanted to consult after the All-Star break with Nashville-based specialist Dr. J.W. Thomas Byrd, who will do the surgery.
Cash said the news was expected as the hip has bothered Kiermaier for several years and surgery was likely to be necessary.
“It’s been a known thing,” Cash said. “He’s been playing with it. The doctor basically said years ago that you play through it until you can’t. Well, we got to the point where he couldn’t.”
Zunino, 31, has been with the Rays for four seasons and is coming off the best of his 10 in the big leagues, having hit 33 homers with a .216 average and .860 OPS, and doing his usual strong work behind the plate. He struggled in 36 games this season (.148, five homers, .499 OPS) before being sidelined in early June.
“Certainly appreciative of Mike’s work, the impact that he’s had on our pitchers just in the clubhouse and the type of player that he was and he’s been for us,” Cash said.
Want more than just the box score?
Subscribe to our free Rays Report newsletter
You’re all signed up!
Want more of our free, weekly newsletters in your inbox? Let’s get started.Explore all your options
Zunino visited with several doctors and tried numerous treatments before deciding on surgery by Dr. Gregory Pearl in Dallas.
“It’s unfortunate,” Cash said. “Applaud Mike for doing everything in his power to find a way to get back, but the symptoms just did not subside. I think it carried into just his everyday life where there was just weakness and tingling in the left shoulder. ...
“From every doctor that we and he have gone and talked to, (they) feel like this is a procedure that will help him get past this and then he can get on with his career.”
13 draft picks sign
The Rays signed their two competitive balance round picks from last week’s draft, No. 70 overall Chandler Simpson, a shortstop from Georgia Tech (slot bonus value $953,300), and No. 71 Ryan Cermak ($929,500), an outfielder from Illinois State. Also signed were fifth-round shortstop Jalen Battles, seventh-round first baseman Blake Robertson, 16th-round shortstop Kamren James and pitchers Sean Harney (8th round), Cade Halemanu (10th), Drew Sommers (11th), Alex Cook (12th) Nate Dahle (13th), Roel Garcia III (14th), Jake Christianson (15th) and Duncan Davitt (18th). The signing deadline is Aug. 1.
Lefty Ryan Yarbrough will step into the rotation spot opened by Luis Patino’s demotion to Triple-A and pitch Thursday, likely behind an opener. ... Shane McClanahan starts Tuesday, his first action since throwing the opening inning in the All-Star Game a week ago, and his first for the Rays since July 13. It also will be his first start against the Orioles since the April 8 season opener. ... Relievers JT Chargois (oblique strain) and Nick Anderson (elbow surgery) throw again Tuesday for the Florida Complex League team. Cash said the Rays were quite impressed with how each did on Saturday, noting Chargois’ command and Anderson’s increased velocity.
Third baseman Yandy Diaz drew a leadoff walk against the Orioles to extend his on-base streak to 23 straight starts. ... Ji-Man Choi’s fifth-inning throwing error snapped the Rays’ team record-matching streak of 10 games without. ... Reliever Cristofer Ogando, designated for assignment Thursday, cleared waivers and was outrighted back to Triple-A Durham. ... Cash said outfielder Manuel Margot, sidelined since late June with a patellar tendon strain, is “progressing well” and eager to start running.
• • •
Sign up for the Rays Report weekly newsletter to get fresh perspectives on the Tampa Bay Rays and the rest of the majors from sports columnist John Romano.