Rays’ Kevin Kiermaier held back by hip tightness

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Marc Topkin, Tampa Bay Times
·2 min read
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PORT CHARLOTTE — Centerfielder Kevin Kiermaier has been on the field with his Rays teammates for the first four days of full-squad workouts but has been limited to light activity due to tightness in his hips.

Kiermaier likely will start full workouts early next week and make his exhibition debut around March 10 in what sounds more like a precautionary move more than any real concern.

“We’re probably going to slow-play him just a little bit,” manager Kevin Cash said. “Both of his hips were just a little tight coming into camp, and we’ve got time on our side. We know K.K. We just want to make sure he’s ready for when it matters most.

“With his thoughts and also Joe (Benge and the athletic training staff), just to give him the extra days to not do anything that’s going to tweak it. He worked really hard this offseason, he probably just felt his hips tighter than usual.”

Kiermaier has been swinging his bat, and on Friday shagged some balls in the outfield during batting practice. But Cash said Kiermaier hasn’t participated in outfield drills or taken live BP yet.

Also Friday:

‣ Hard-throwing rookies Shane McClanahan, who made his debut during the playoffs, and Luis Patino, acquired from San Diego in the Blake Snell trade, made impressive showings during live batting practice.

“What’s not to like?” Cash said. “It’s 97-98 (mph), filthy breaking balls. We’ve talked about Shane’s slider that (pitching coach Kyle Snyder is) really excited about.

“With Luis, it was just the constant strike-throwing. It seemed like he didn’t throw a ball until a change-up went up and away on his second-to-last pitch, and then he came right back in and threw a breaking ball for a strike at the end.

“But to show that type of commitment to the zone for both of those guys this early in their careers is really, really impressive. If you can continue to repeat that mindset of just constantly pounding the zone., they’re going to be special pitchers.”

‣ Lefty Josh Fleming, who made his debut last season, also threw, and said afterward he is focused on earning a spot in the rotation (as a starter or working bulk innings) in the crowded field. Cash also praised him and said he is one of the Rays’ toughest competitors.

‣ Field coordinator/catching coach Paul Hoover joined the workouts for the first time, having been sidelined due to COVID-19 protocol issues. Also returning in recent days were pitchers Phoenix Sanders and Drew Strotman, and minor-league coaches Brady Williams and Michael Johns. Absences due to protocol issues do not necessarily mean that person tested positive for the coronavirus.

‣ Fox Sports Sun, soon to be known as Bally Sports, announced plans to televise 13 Rays spring games, 10 with their crew and three from the Twins broadcast.