ST. PETERSBURG -- Few highlights dotted the Rays' landscape in Friday night's 7-1 loss to the Mariners, but seeing Kevin Kiermaier complete a hustling double brought a lot of smiles to Rays fans."Felt good," Kiermaier said. "Felt good to be back on the field. ... I felt good in the
ST. PETERSBURG -- Few highlights dotted the Rays' landscape in Friday night's 7-1 loss to the Mariners, but seeing Kevin Kiermaier complete a hustling double brought a lot of smiles to Rays fans.
"Felt good," Kiermaier said. "Felt good to be back on the field. ... I felt good in the box. I felt good defensively. I felt good on the bases.
"... Hopefully I just keep having productive at-bats and doing whatever it takes to get on base and try and create some havoc out there and score some runs."
After missing more than two months, Kiermaier returned to the Rays. To clear a spot on the team's 25-man active roster, outfielder Mallex Smith was optioned to Triple-A Durham.
"We're excited to have [Kiermaier] back," Rays manager Kevin Cash said before the game. "Unfortunately, when you add a guy you have to option somebody. We optioned Mallex. ... So, sad to see him go, but really glad to see K.K. back."
The Rays' Gold Glove center fielder has been out since June 8, when he sustained a hairline fracture in his right hip. He injured his hip sliding feet first into first base against the White Sox at The Trop. Kiermaier's return was also delayed by back issues.
"We all know the energy he provides on defense, at the plate, on the bases," Cash said. "And we're going to hope to feed off him to get us back going again. It's not all on K.K., but his presence will surely help."
Kiermaier was in the lineup hitting leadoff for the simple fact that Cash liked the idea that the high-energy center fielder might be a fire-starter for the team's lagging offense. In other words, do what he did in the sixth.
Mariners starter Erasmo Ramirez had blanked his old teammates for five innings when Kiermaier led off the sixth, slapping the ball to center field. He paused briefly rounding first, then turned on the jets toward second base, finishing with a head-first slide for a double.
"At the big league level, it's been since June that I did that," Kiermaier said. "So you know, a long wait for that to happen again. Hopefully you guys see plenty more of that here in the next month or so. All I want to do is whatever it takes to hit the ball hard and run around, let the big guys drive me in. That's the name of my game."
Kiermaier scored on Lucas Duda's sacrifice fly, placing the only blemish on Ramirez's outing.
Kiermaier also put on display his defense in the first when Nelson Cruz hit a ball to deep center field. Realizing he could not get to the ball, Kiermaier acted as though he were about to catch it, which managed to hold up Robinson Cano a few steps, so he could not score from first base on the double that drove home one.
"Just try and slow [Cano] up some steps, because I knew I couldn't catch it," Kiermaier said. "You never know if that's going to work or not."
Kiermaier finished 1-for-4 in his return.
Bill Chastain has covered the Rays for MLB.com since 2005.