Inbox: Can Rays keep Kiermaier healthy?

Beat reporter Bill Chastain answers questions from fans

April 23rd, 2018

I can't believe is injured again. The Rays need to tell him to dial it back a notch. I know he's a great player, and he can do some amazing things. But how can he be any good if he's on the disabled list?
-- Steven H., St. Petersburg

Kiermaier plays hard. And when you play hard, injuries are going to happen. The latest injury really was a freaky one, though. He slid headfirst into second and tore a ligament in his right thumb while trying to hang onto the bag. Bottom line, if Kiermaier doesn't play all out, the Rays aren't getting the player they value.
has been really good so far. Now that he's been officially named a member of the starting rotation, will he remain there?
-- Jim B., Memphis, Tenn.

Prior to Sunday's game when talking to manager Kevin Cash about , I asked if Tampa Bay planned to go to a five-man rotation once Eovaldi returned. Cash said that wasn't the plan. Having said that, a lot can happen between now and when Eovaldi returns -- particularly injuries to other pitchers in the rotation. However, if Eovaldi returns and the rest of the rotation is in good shape, I would expect Chirinos to return to the bullpen.
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I didn't know what to think about "bullpen days" when the season started. I thought the Rays were crazy. Now I kind of like the days when the bullpen takes over, and I'm not crazy about the days when the regular starters pitch. Your thoughts?
-- Patrick H., Tampa, Fla.

In fairness to Patrick, I received this email prior to the recent run of nice starts by the starters. I agree -- I like the "bullpen days," and I believe there's still some further evaluation to take place before judging its effectiveness. Of course, if the starters continue to go a little deeper into the games, I think the effectiveness of the bullpen start will be improved.
Watching play the field makes me uncomfortable. But watching him on the offensive side is a delight. How do you see the Rays managing Smith going forward?
-- Don P., Tampa, Fla.

Smith has struggled in the field at times, but he's been pretty darn good on offense. If you're Cash, you hope the offense continues to play, and the defense improves. Smith has the athleticism to become a better defender.
I went to several Spring Training games this season, driving from St. Petersburg to Port Charlotte. I can honestly say, I didn't see this start coming. The Rays looked like they had a competitive squad in the games I saw. What happened?
-- Jeff T., Tampa, Fla.

Yes, the Rays started slow, but they also ran into a buzz saw in the Red Sox, who they got to see home and away to start the season. I still believe that it's too early to push the panic button on this year's squad, particularly the way they've played in the past six games (won five of six). But I will agree that Tampa Bay did not get off to the start the club would have hoped for.