Kiermaier has hip surgery, 'will dominate' rehab

Timetable for veteran center fielder's return to full health is 6-7 months

August 5th, 2022

DETROIT -- Rays center fielder  vowed to be back and “better than ever” on Friday after undergoing surgery Wednesday to address an impingement and repair the labrum in his left hip.

Kiermaier’s season-ending procedure was performed by Dr. J.W. Thomas Byrd in Nashville, Tenn. He is expected to return to full baseball activity in six to seven months, according to the Rays, which would allow him to potentially be ready to play around Opening Day in 2023.

Kiermaier had been bothered by inflammation in his left hip throughout the season, receiving cortisone shots in his hip during Spring Training and in June. The pain finally became too much to play through on July 9, his last game of the season, and he was officially ruled out for the year early last week.

Kiermaier posted a video to Twitter on Thursday morning from his home in Tampa, Fla., saying he was “right where I belong.”

“Surgery was great the other day. I’m feeling great right now. Got to grind through this rehab. I love a good challenge. I will dominate this,” Kiermaier said. “I am so excited about the thought of being healthy moving forward. It has been an absolute grind, what I’ve played with this last year and a half, and I just want to let everyone know that I’ll be OK. I’ll be on that baseball field next year.

“I’m a happy man. Life is good. I cannot thank everyone enough for the support. … Means the world to me. That’s why I love this city, this community, everything about here. Everyone around here in the Tampa Bay area has treated me great since Day 1. I will be back on that field next year, better than ever.”

The question, however, is where Kiermaier will be playing when he gets back on the field. The 32-year-old team leader is earning $12 million in the final guaranteed season of the contract extension he signed in 2017, and his deal includes a $13 million club option (or $2.5 million buyout) for next year.

It’s difficult to imagine the Rays picking up Kiermaier’s option, especially after acquiring their potential center fielder of the future in Jose Siri, whose defensive range and closing speed they have compared favorably to the Platinum Glove Award-winning Kiermaier. Unless they work out a new deal on different terms to retain the veteran, it’s possible Kiermaier -- who ranks fifth in franchise history with 914 games played since his 2013 debut -- may have reached the end of his tenure with Tampa Bay.

But that decision will be made in the offseason. For now, Kiermaier is focused on getting healthy and getting back on the field.

“Sounds like KK's pretty excited to have this past him. Now, he's got to work pretty hard to get himself back to playing shape, and [we] trust that he'll do that,” Rays manager Kevin Cash said. “Ultimately, happy for him. It's unfortunate for us, because he's such a big part of our team, but happy for him that hopefully this alleviates some of that issue that he's had for quite some time.”