As expected, Tampa Bay reinstated Kiermaier from the 10-day IL. Kiermaier went through a full workout before Tuesday’s series opener in Baltimore and recovered quickly from the left wrist sprain he sustained while sliding into second base in Oakland on May 8. Wednesday was the first day Kiermaier was eligible to return, a day he was "definitely excited" for as soon as his wrist began to heal, and the Rays cleared a spot for him by optioning corner infield prospect Kevin Padlo to Triple-A Durham on Tuesday night.
“My wrist is more than ready to go,” said Kiermaier, who returned to the lineup against Orioles lefty John Means on Wednesday night. “I'm excited to be back in there and contribute.”
Kiermaier said he believes he’s played better in the past after sustaining injuries to his left hand/wrist -- like when he was hit by a pitch in Game 3 of the American League Championship Series last October, then went 7-for-19 with two homers in the World Series -- because it helps him slow the game down and keeps him from overexerting himself.
But the Rays won’t need Kiermaier to push himself too hard, as they have plenty of outfield depth between him, Randy Arozarena, Austin Meadows, Manuel Margot and Brett Phillips. Starting in center field every day while Kiermaier was out, Phillips delivered a couple big hits -- a walk-off single on Friday and a three-run homer on Tuesday -- while playing excellent defense.
“Excited to have KK back. And we all know what he does for our lineup, what he does for on the field defensively, offensively,” manager Kevin Cash said. “He really helps, and we'll try to do everything we can to keep him fresh and keep the rest of the guys fresh.”
The Rays placed left-hander Reed on the 10-day IL due to left thumb weakness, which was expected after he exited Tuesday’s game due to numbness in his throwing hand -- similar to the injury that sidelined him last season and again last month. Cash said the feeling returned while Reed was on the mound Tuesday night, gradually getting worse until he lost the ability to grip the ball. Tampa Bay hopes to have Reed seen by doctors who can identify and address the recurring issue.
“You feel for the guy. You're frustrated for him. He's worked hard. There's definitely a lot to like about him,” Cash said. “But I think, talking to Cody after the game last night, he's frustrated certainly with not being able to feel the ball, the grip of the ball. … He's got more in the tank, and he's just not able to cut it loose because of that reoccurring lack of feeling in his hand.”
It came as more of a surprise that Tampa Bay also placed Patiño on the 10-day IL due to a right middle finger laceration. Patiño started Tuesday night at Oriole Park at Camden Yards and exited after throwing 82 pitches in 3 1/3 innings. Cash said that he realized when he went to take the ball from Patiño in the fourth inning that the 21-year-old right-hander was bleeding near one of his fingernails, the result of one of his nails cutting into the side of his finger while gripping a breaking ball.
The Rays are hoping that it will be a short stint on the IL for Patiño, especially if he’s able to resume throwing in a day or two. They still have five starting/bulk-inning options -- Tyler Glasnow, Ryan Yarbrough, Rich Hill, Josh Fleming and Shane McClanahan -- along with right-hander Michael Wacha, who’s getting closer to returning from the 10-day IL after throwing around 25 pitches in a simulated game on Wednesday in Baltimore.
To replace Reed and Patiño, the Rays recalled right-handers Head and Richards from Durham. Both pitchers previously made five appearances for Tampa Bay this season, with Head logging a 3.86 ERA and a 1.00 WHIP in seven innings, while Richards posted a 4.91 ERA and a 1.09 WHIP over 11 innings.
Both have pitched well in Triple-A; Head has six strikeouts over three scoreless, hitless appearances, and Richards struck out 12 while allowing just three hits and one walk in 7 1/3 innings over seven outings.
After previously starting in Miami, and pitching mostly as a multi-inning swingman for Tampa Bay, the Rays have transitioned Richards into more of a one-inning role. He recorded three outs in six of his seven appearances, and four outs in the other, and Cash said Durham manager Brady Williams raved about Richards’ work in that capacity.
“The velo has ticked up a little bit. All of his stuff has played up,” Cash said. “Brady was incredibly excited for Trevor and really wants to see him perform well and make the most of the opportunity that he feels he can really help us in the bullpen.”
Additionally, the Rays traded catcher Kevan Smith to the Braves for cash considerations. Tampa Bay had designated Smith for assignment on Sunday to make room for the return of Francisco Mejía, but it hoped to retain the catcher if he cleared waivers. Smith immediately joined Atlanta, and he was active for his new team on Wednesday.
“We’re happy for him. I'm happy for him,” Cash said. “Every conversation I've had with Smitty coming up, coming down, we view him as a Major League catcher. I'm glad that he's getting an opportunity certainly with a good organization in Atlanta.”
Adames ‘fine’ after calf cramp
Shortstop Willy Adames went down holding his right leg after making a nice play to end the Rays’ 9-7 win over the Orioles on Wednesday night in Baltimore, but Cash said Adames was “fine” and just felt his calf cramp up on him. Adames eventually got up and walked off the field, but Cash said Adames would “most likely” get Thursday’s 12:35 p.m. ET series finale off.
“It was a tremendous play,” Cash added. “Really good by him, and really good by [Brandon] Lowe to be able to handle it.”