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Rays’ Kevin Kiermaier feels good after surgery, unsure about future

Notes | A conversation about re-signing is planned, but moving on from the team he loves and has only known is also possible.
Injured Rays centerfielder Kevin Kiermaier, on crutches after left hip surgery, talks with head athletic trainer Joe Benge and manager Kevin Cash before Saturday's game.
Injured Rays centerfielder Kevin Kiermaier, on crutches after left hip surgery, talks with head athletic trainer Joe Benge and manager Kevin Cash before Saturday's game. [ WILL VRAGOVIC | Tampa Bay Rays ]
Published Aug. 13|Updated Aug. 14

ST. PETERSBURG — Rays veteran centerfielder Kevin Kiermaier feels great about the surgery to repair his left hip, confident about being ready for the start of next season and uncertain where he will be playing.

Kiermaier on Saturday stopped by Tropicana Field for the first time since the Aug. 3 procedure to repair a labrum that was “in terrible shape” and relieve a bone impingement, saying the surgery was “a complete win” and he expected to complete his rehab in time to be ready for opening day.

“What I love about that is a lot of it is up to me,” he said, resting on crutches he’ll need for about three more weeks. “It’s up to me, my work ethic, what I do on a daily basis, to give myself the best chance possible of coming back and stronger than what I’ve been the last couple years. ...

“I’m going to do everything in my power to try to look like the player I was a couple years ago. And hopefully a team, or several teams, will be wanting me.”

Kiermaier, 32, will be looking for job. He is in the last guaranteed year of his contract with the Rays and will be a free agent when they pay him a $2.5 million buyout rather than pick up a $13 million option.

After leaving the July 9 game in Cincinnati, Kiermaier acknowledged thinking “that was going to be my last game in a Ray uniform.” But he said Saturday that he is open to talking about a return — “for sure I have interest” — to the team he has been with since the 2010 draft. He also said baseball operations president Erik Neander told him “we’re going to have a conversation at some point.”

Obviously the specifics will matter, such as how much the Rays are willing to pay and what kind of role they have for the three-time Gold Glover after acquiring centerfielder Jose Siri.

Also factors: the interest level from other teams and how much Kiermaier thinks playing home games on grass, rather than the Trop’s artificial turf, would be better for him.

At one point, he said, “I’ve been here for a long time and sometimes the change of different personnel is a good thing for teams sometimes.”

But his oft-expressed affection for the Rays and living in the Tampa Bay area also were evident as he became somewhat emotional in discussing scenarios.

“I know one thing and one thing only, and this is someplace I love,” he said “So I’d be lying to you if I said I wouldn’t listen to anything. It’ll be interesting to see what happens moving forward.”

Kiermaier said the hip had been a major issue since the start of last season, and after he got through 2021 with assorted treatment he hoped to do the same this season, and maybe have the much-needed surgery in the offseason. But it became too painful and limiting to continue.

“It was incredible I played as long as what I did,” he said. “But I’m proud of that, in a sense, because I literally went until the wheels fell off.”

Miscellany

Brandon Lowe has been limited, and likely is out again Sunday, by a sore right shoulder; he is expected to return to action Monday in New York. ... Harold Ramirez (fractured right thumb) headed to Triple-A Durham to start his rehab assignment Sunday, with the chance to rejoin the Rays during the week. ... Wander Franco (broken right hamate) is headed soon to start rehab in the Florida Complex League. ... Manuel Margot, eyeing an Aug. 20 return from a right knee patellar tendon strain, moved his rehab to Durham, going 1-for-5 and playing rightfield. .... Shane McClanahan reached the 100-pitch mark for the third time in his career. ... Randy Arozarena logged his team-leading 28th multi-hit game.

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