HOUSTON -- Rays center fielder Kevin Kiermaier is back with the Rays. The two-time Gold Glover, who had surgery to repair a torn ligament in his right thumb on April 20, came off the disabled list and started in the leadoff spot for the club's Tuesday night matchup with the Astros at Minute Maid Park.
To make room on the roster for Kiermaier, outfielder Rob Refsnyder was designated for assignment .
"I feel really good," Kiermaier said on Monday when he rejoined the club from his rehab assignment. "I did everything I needed to do down there. I hit, I ran the bases well. I made a diving catch last week in the outfield in Dunedin. Made a couple of throws. Everything that was asked of me.
"It got to the point, where I'm like, 'I'm ready to be back.' My timing feels good up at the plate. I faced guys throwing 98, sidearmers, lefties, everything. So I'm very happy with how it went down there. I'm very excited, I'm ready."
Kiermaier underwent surgery to repair a torn ligament in his right thumb in April. He sustained the injury when his hand got caught on the ground as he slid headfirst into second base on April 15 against the Phillies, and he has been on the disabled list since April 16.
The two-time Gold Glover made five Minor League rehab appearances with Class A Advanced Port Charlotte and Triple-A Durham, going 7-for-17 with a double, a triple, an RBI, two walks and a stolen base.
"I squared up a lot of balls, had great at-bats," Kiermaier said. "So I texted [Rays manager Kevin] Cash, I texted [hitting coach Chad Mottola] quite a few times. And I said, 'How many more line drives is it going to take for me to get a call to Houston?' I guess I convinced them enough. ... I'm where I need to be right now, and I'm excited to take the field tomorrow with these guys."
Kiermaier was asked about returning just in time to face Houston's Justin Verlander, one of baseball's best, on Tuesday.
"Hey, you face the best, and he's having a great year," Kiermaier said. "I knew what I was getting myself into, and I didn't want to wait until Friday, to be honest. I feel like I'm fully capable right now. So I'm glad they flew me to Houston."
Cash is happy to have Kiermaier back patrolling center field.
"We thought, talking to K.K. and talking to the training staff and then obviously the Durham staff, that he was in a good spot physically and mentally," Cash said. "We're a better team when K.K. is on the field."
This marks the third straight year in which Kiermaier has logged considerable time on the disabled list. Last season, he missed 61 games with a right hip fracture and sat out 48 games in 2016 with a fractured left hand.
Refsnyder posted a .167/.314/.274 line in 40 games for the Rays.
When a player's contract is designated for assignment -- often abbreviated "DFA" -- that player is immediately removed from his club's 40-man roster, and 25-man roster if he was on that as well. Within seven days of the transaction (it was previously 10 days), the player must either be traded, released or placed on irrevocable outright waivers.
• Chris Archer (left abdominal strain) is scheduled to throw a bullpen session Friday. Cash said the right-hander will have to make some rehab starts before returning to the team.
• Daniel Robertson (left hamstring strain) will play second base in the first game of a doubleheader for Port Charlotte on Tuesday and is expected to return to the team by Friday.
Cash talks to Hechavarria
The Rays have told Adeiny Hechavarria that Willy Adames will be the team's starting shortstop. Cash explained the Rays' plan to Hechavarria.
"[Hechavarria was] very understanding of the situation," Cash said. "I was extremely appreciative of how he handled it. Now it's my job to make sure he's getting in there, getting some reps.
"We saw that [Sunday], he comes off the DL, gets three hits, makes maybe the best play of the game. He's going to play. It just might not be the amount he was playing before the injury."
Cash told reporters that Hechavarria won't be moved around the infield. When he plays, he'll play shortstop.