Kiermaier (hip), Margot (knee) placed on injured list

June 21st, 2022

ST. PETERSBURG -- Injuries continue to take their toll on the Rays, who must fill two new holes in their lineup after adding a pair of important outfielders to their seemingly endless injury report.

On Tuesday, Tampa Bay placed center fielder (left hip inflammation) and outfielder (right knee sprain) on the 10-day injured list. Both outfielders exited Monday’s 4-2 loss to the Yankees early due to injuries, with Kiermaier hopping out of the batter’s box in the second inning and Margot being carted off in the ninth.

After receiving a cortisone shot on Tuesday, Kiermaier said he’s hoping to return around the time he’s eligible to return from the 10-day IL. Manager Kevin Cash reiterated Tuesday that Margot will be sidelined “for a while.” The Rays are awaiting the results of Margot’s MRI, but it seems possible he could miss the rest of the season.

The Rays will have a tough time replacing Margot, who’s fourth on the team with 1.4 WAR, much less doing so while also having to temporarily withstand the loss of Kiermaier. The elite defensive center fielder said he’s been playing through a hip issue for “quite some time now,” but he called Tuesday’s game “a breaking point.”

“It's frustrating,” Kiermaier said. “I was sick to my stomach when I saw Manny's thing. Our recent struggles lately as a team these last few weeks have been very trying for all of us, with performance and now health. I mean, we've got very valuable guys on this team that have gone down as of late.”

To take their spots on the active roster, the Rays recalled infielder Jonathan Aranda and outfielder Luke Raley from Triple-A Durham. Neither player was in the starting lineup against Yankees lefty Nestor Cortes on Tuesday night at Tropicana Field. Cash will likely lean on Randy Arozarena and rookie Josh Lowe in the outfield while also mixing and matching with the speedy Brett Phillips, first baseman/corner outfielder Harold Ramírez, super-utility man Vidal Bruján and Raley.

When he’s out there, Arozarena will play left field as he did Tuesday. Lowe started in right on Tuesday, although he’ll also play center. Phillips can play center, as he did Tuesday, or either corner spot. Bruján has experience everywhere, and Raley can capably handle both corners. Ramírez has played some corner outfield this season, although he’s perhaps better suited for DH or first-base duty.

Just having to replace those two would be one task, but the Rays are now missing star shortstop Wander Franco (who could return this weekend from a right quad strain), second baseman Brandon Lowe (back), catcher Mike Zunino (left shoulder), Margot and Kiermaier. Those are five of their most important players -- and that’s just what they’re dealing with on the position player front.

Tampa Bay is also currently missing its 2021 Opening Day starter, Tyler Glasnow; its No. 2 and No. 4 starters from this season, Drew Rasmussen and Luis Patiño (pitching in Triple-A on a rehab assignment); depth starters Yonny Chirinos and Brendan McKay; and five high-leverage relievers in J.P. Feyereisen, Andrew Kittredge, Pete Fairbanks, Nick Anderson and Andrew Kittredge.

Those injuries have caught up with the Rays recently, as the defending American League East champions entered Tuesday having gone 18-21 over their previous 39 games following an 18-10 start to the season.

“We know there's opportunity out there, and we control our own destiny in here and hope guys step up,” Kiermaier said. “You learn a lot about guys in here when their back's against the wall, so we'll see how the team responds. Injuries and the way we've been playing, it's deflating, in a sense. But we've got a job to do, to try to win games, and we'll see what happens.”

This is the first Major League callup for Aranda, Tampa Bay’s No. 21 prospect according to MLB Pipeline. The lefty hitter was slashing .310/.386/.512 with 11 homers in 63 games in Triple-A, and he said he’s worked hard to feel comfortable playing first, second and third base. He could see time at all three spots.

“It's been a beautiful and long road,” the 24-year-old Aranda said through interpreter Manny Navarro. “But I'm very grateful to be here, and I think I'm going to take advantage of this opportunity here.”

Aranda’s first big league callup came with a special side effect. His parents, Humberto and Jessica, traveled from Mexico to see him on Tuesday night at Tropicana Field. Aranda said his parents had never seen him play professionally in the United States.

“I'm going to be very proud to see them here,” he said.

The 27-year-old Raley, another lefty hitter, debuted for the Dodgers last season before the Rays traded Minor League reliever Tanner Dodson to acquire him during Spring Training. He had a frustrating start to his tenure here, enduring a quad injury his first day in Rays camp, but he recovered well enough to put together a .299/.374/.575 slash line with seven homers in his first 100 plate appearances for Durham.

“I'm happy to be here and happy to have the opportunity to help the Rays win baseball games,” Raley said. “Missing the first month of the season was tough, and I kind of had to restart after that. But I'm starting to feel good. My timing feels like it's on the right track.”