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DUNEDIN — The issue that forced Rays centerfielder Kevin Kiermaier out of Saturday’s game started — as benignly as this sounds — with a rogue eyelash.
“Just one of those weird things,” Kiermaier said. “And it seems like this stuff could only happen to me.”
Kiermaier said he was going through batting practice with no issues when he felt some discomfort in his left eye and went in to be checked by the athletic training staff.
“We rinsed my eye in trying to get (the eyelash) and then it disappeared, or kind of went into one of these crevices or whatever,” Kiermaier explained. “Once that happened, everything took a turn for the worse.
“I don’t know how, or if, we scratched it. Whatever it was, that’s definitely what it feels like. The way I keep telling people, it just feels like a piece of sand is on the inside of my eyelid. And every time I blink it’s just grinding … just pressure, irritation, a scratching feeling.”
Kiermaier figured it would go away, and that steady dosing of eye drops would help, but focus became an issue. “It just made my blood boil,” Kiermaier said. “I was so frustrated over it and we just couldn’t figure it out.”
One at-bat (with protective goggles) and four innings in the field was enough, and manager Kevin Cash took Kiermaier out. He said he felt slightly better Sunday but didn’t start — though Cash said he was slated to be off anyway — did come in to play defense in the bottom of the ninth.
“Wasn’t happy or proud about (coming out) at all,” Kiermaier said. “These things happen, unfortunately. … After being on the (injured list) a couple times already (with quad and wrist issues), this is the last thing I want to deal with. I’ll be fine. But definitely didn’t want to miss any time other than what I have already, especially with the fluky thing like this.”
The two runs Josh Fleming allowed in the eighth Sunday, on a one-out single by Teoscar Hernandez and a home run by Randal Grichuk, forced the Rays to have to rally in the ninth. But the work Fleming did to get them that far was impressive.
“What (Fleming) did against that lineup, all those right-handers … he was outstanding,” Cash said. Michael Wacha worked a solid first two innings in his first action since May 2, sidelined by hamstring tightness.
Cash spoke to the umpires between three consecutive innings but wouldn’t say why except that it didn’t have to do with any issues with either team’s lineup card, which in context seemed like a strong possibility. “No problem at all,” Cash said. “Just had some in-game questions.”
⋅ First baseman Ji-Man Choi went 1-for-3 with a double in his first meeting with Jays starter Hyun Jin Ryu, who not only is a fellow Korean but a product of the same high school, Dong-san, in Incheon. Ryu is four years older so they did not attend or play together there.
⋅ Brett Phillips had a busy day in centerfield with seven putouts, two shy of the team outfield record.
⋅ Ryan Yarbrough will start for the Rays on Monday rather than work behind an opener.
⋅ Monday’s 1:07 p.m. series finale is the Blue Jays’ last game with Dunedin as their regular-season home as they shift remaining home games to Buffalo, N.Y.
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