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Kiermaier plays outfield all by himself?

Tsutsugo homers in Friday's simulated game
@juanctoribio
July 10, 2020

ST. PETERSBURG -- It only took a week for Kevin Kiermaier to remind everyone why he’s one of the best center fielders in baseball. During Friday’s sim game, which consisted of two teams of five players, Kiermaier stood in center field as the only player in the outfield. With a

ST. PETERSBURG -- It only took a week for Kevin Kiermaier to remind everyone why he’s one of the best center fielders in baseball.

During Friday’s sim game, which consisted of two teams of five players, Kiermaier stood in center field as the only player in the outfield. With a ton of open space, Kiermaier was running from gap to gap on fly balls, even making non catches look impressive.

But when Yoshitomo Tsutsugo hit a deep fly ball towards the warning track in center, Kiermaier was in his comfort zone. The three-time Gold Glove Award winner got a good jump, slowed down his momentum when he got near the wall, and then made an over-the-shoulder catch to rob Tsutsugo on extra bases.

The players and coaches in attendance admired the catch, while Tsutsugo looked on in disbelief.

“It’s really hard for anyone to get a hit over there -- he catches all of them,” said Rays catcher Michael Perez. “He’s so fast and that’s just his specialty.”

With Kiermaier roaming the outfield, manager Kevin Cash half-jokingly said that seeing plays like that makes him wonder if the Rays could get away with having a two-man outfield whenever there’s a heavy groundball pitcher on the mound.

The Rays and Cash have been known for their creative alignments, including relievers at first and third base and a four-man outfield during Spring Training. With Manuel Margot being another capable outfielder, maybe there’s a chance Cash and the Rays decide to try it out.

“Because of today’s performance, you could make an argument that we can,” Cash said, with a smile. “We have a heavy groundball pitcher, maybe we bring all the outfielders in and let KK roam the outfield. That play today on Yoshi, there is one, maybe two guys in the game that make that play. It looks like it should have been at Raymond James Stadium, the over-the-shoulder catch. Just really impressive how athletic he is.”

Tsutsugo homers
Though Kiermaier robbed Tsutsugo of a double, the Japanese slugger was able to get some revenge during Friday’s sim game, launching a homer down the right-field line against Sam McWilliams.

Tsutsugo is 2-for-7 through two simulated games, but he has put together solid at-bats. Most of his at-bats have come against left-handed pitching, which is why Cash and the Rays wanted to get him an at-bat against McWilliams. It paid off.

Thompson and Curtiss impress
Ryan Thompson and John Curtiss were two of the pitchers that came over from Port Charlotte for Friday’s sim game, and they both made a very good impression.

Thompson tossed two scoreless innings against Willy Adames, Mike Zunino, Ji-Man Choi and Mike Brosseau. The sidearm right-hander forced some ugly swings, en route to striking out four. Curtiss had a much more efficient outing, recording four outs on just 11 pitches. The big right-hander made quite the impression during Spring Training, particularly with his breaking ball, and that continued on Friday.

“Those guys are nasty,” Cash said. “Just sitting behind and getting a different view, they’ve worked hard, they’ve kept their arms in shape and their stuff didn’t miss a beat over the last couple of months. They looked really, really good. It’s tough to envision a scenario where they’re not helping us throughout the season, whenever that is.”

Friday’s attendance
Friday was another sim game day at the Trop, so not every position player was seen on the field. Tyler Glasnow, Randy Arozarena, Yonny Chirinos and José Martínez have still not been spotted during workouts.

Austin Meadows attended Friday's workout, but he has not been on the field since. Brendan McKay participated in the first couple of workouts, but he has not been seen on the field in the last four days. Diego Castillo has also not been seen the last three days. Due to the health protocols, the Rays won't disclose which players have attended each workout.

Juan Toribio covers the Rays for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @juanctoribio.