Kiermaier, Zunino out for rest of season

July 25th, 2022

BALTIMORE -- Gold Glove center fielder Kevin Kiermaier and All-Star catcher Mike Zunino will both miss the remainder of the season, it was revealed Monday before the Rays’ series opener in Baltimore. Manager Kevin Cash said Kiermaier will undergo left hip labrum surgery, while Zunino, who has been sidelined since June 9, will undergo surgery for thoracic outlet syndrome in his left arm, a team official confirmed.

Both veterans are in the last guaranteed year of their contracts with Tampa Bay, though Kiermaier has a $13 million team option for 2023.

“It’s unfortunate, no doubt about it,” Cash said. “There is time for a lengthier discussion down the road about the impact [Kiermaier] has had, but we’re certainly going to miss him this year.”

The Rays' longest-tenured player and clubhouse leader, Kiermaier played for years through chronic hip discomfort before the issue sidelined him on July 9. He was transferred to the 60-day injured list on July 16, acknowledging he wouldn’t be back “any time soon” before consulting a hip specialist in Nashville, Tenn.

The decision concludes a down year for the three-time Gold Glove winner on both sides of the ball. Kiermaier hit .228 with seven home runs and an 89 OPS+ in 63 games, while seeing his typically elite defensive numbers decline amid the injury as well. The 32-year-old’s 1 out above average rank in the 63rd percentile this season, after he compiled 64 OAA from 2016-21, tied for the second most among outfielders in that span.

“It’s been a known thing,” Cash said. “The doctor basically said years ago, ‘Play through it until you can’t.’ We got to the point where he couldn’t.”

A stalwart behind the plate for Tampa Bay since 2019 and an All-Star in '21, Zunino watched his offensive production crater this season before reporting feeling a tingling sensation running down his left arm. He received a Botox injection on June 20 and neck treatment on July 11 to alleviate the symptoms of TOS, a vascular condition more commonly diagnosed in pitchers, before electing surgery. The 31-year-old backstop finished 2022 with a .148/.195/.304 slash line in 36 games.

While not unexpected, Monday's outcomes are the product of another devastating year of injuries for the Rays, who have 15 players on the injured list and 11 on the 60-day IL. Several are key contributors they’ve been without all year, like frontline starter Tyler Glasnow and impact reliever Nick Anderson, but they’ve also been forced to deal with midseason losses of star shortstop Wander Franco, productive outfielders Harold Ramírez and Manuel Margot and All-Star closer Andrew Kittredge, among others, and now Kiermaier and Zunino.

Tampa Bay has been playing without Zunino for almost two months and Keirmaier for most of July, so Monday’s news doesn’t impact its roster too much in the short term. Francisco Mejía and the recently acquired Christian Bethancourt remain in line for duties behind the plate, while Brett Phillips has slid over from right field in Kiermaier’s absence, with rookie Josh Lowe getting a long look in right.

The Rays also recently added speedy depth outfielder Roman Quinn, and they are encouraged by the progress Margot has made since his gruesome right knee sprain June 20. They’re hopeful to get Margot back in about a month.

"He's champing at the bit," Cash said.