ARLINGTON -- After he left Sunday's game with neck spasms that partly stemmed from a diving play, Kevin Kiermaier figured Monday's off-day would give him the rest he needed and that he'd be back in the lineup for the opener Tuesday in Arlington.
Instead, Kiermaier underwent an MRI on his neck Tuesday morning and will be sidelined for a while longer. The MRI came back clean, which is good news, but that didn't do much to temper Kiermaier's frustration that he's still dealing with nagging injuries that have held him back parts of this season.
"I didn't think it was going to come to this point," Kiermaier said. "I've had neck tightness before. This is much more severe, a little bit different. It's very frustrating."
The center fielder said he can't really move his head in any direction without feeling a lot of pain and discomfort.
"I can't allow this to linger," he said. "I have to let it calm down."
Kiermaier was pinch-hit for in the fifth inning on Sunday after he made a diving play in the top of the inning. The neck had been bothering him before the game, and he received an impromptu massage from massage therapist Ray Allen around an hour before first pitch, which Kiermaier said was out of the ordinary. Then he foam-rolled the neck, a method he practices regularly year-round, and "something just caught the wrong way."
"That's what threw everything out of whack," Kiermaier said. "It feels like someone hit me with a baseball bat."
That's a somewhat dramatic turn of events from how optimistic he was feeling Sunday, even after coming out of the game.
"I thought I was for sure a lock to be in the lineup today," he said. "After how my off-day went yesterday, I texted [manager] Kevin Cash and [head athletic trainer] Joe Benge and said, 'I hope something changes by the time I wake up tomorrow.' And to be honest, not a whole lot has changed."
Cash said Kiermaier would be available to pinch-run and play defense if the need arose, but hitting is off the table for now. Kiermaier did not take batting practice Tuesday.
"Necks are very tricky," Cash said. "And when you have a stiff neck, sore neck like he does, it affects every little movement. You don't realize that until you have that injury. Hopefully, he'll be able to calm it down, continue to calm it down. It'll progress better by the hour and maybe tomorrow we'll have some better news and we'll get him back in there. I still think at this point it's a long-shot but we've seen some guys recover pretty quick."
Snell nears return
Blake Snell continues to inch toward his return to a Major League mound, but first, he'll jump right back into the playoff fray for the Triple-A Durham Bulls later this week.
Snell, rehabbing from left elbow surgery, will throw two innings and approximately 30 pitches for Durham on Thursday in Game 3 of the Governors' Cup finals between the Bulls and the Columbus Clippers.
This will be the second rehab appearance for Snell, who threw a bullpen at Globe Life Park on Tuesday. The lefty threw two-thirds of an inning on Saturday during the Bulls' route of the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders in the first round of the playoffs.
"My arm feels good," Snell said. "The first game I pitched was weird, very awkward. It's almost like spring again. I wasn't used to it, but I've never been hurt, so I didn't know what to expect. I got better throughout. I felt more comfortable. I was happy about that. I was expecting to be dominant and back to my ways, but it was definitely not that."
Snell is anxious to rejoin the Rays' rotation but also understands there's a process that has to take place before he can do that. He'd rather be pitching for the Major League team this week, but he acknowledged he's not quite ready for that yet.
"To come here and feel the way I felt [for the Bulls] wouldn't help the team, especially as much as we need to be winning right now," Snell said. "I'm happy to go back. I think that's going to be huge for me -- two innings. I think I'll be more comfortable, more confident."