Rays outfielder Kevin Kiermaier, recovering from a torn ligament in his right thumb, will begin a minor league rehab assignment on Tuesday. He is aiming to be activated “June 20th-ish,” which would be several weeks ahead of schedule, Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times reports.
Kiermaier, 28, was hitting a meager .163/.250/.233 in 48 plate appearances leading up to the injury. Mallex Smith has drawn the majority of starts in center field while Kiermaier has been absent.
Rob Refsnyder and Carlos Gomez have struggled offensively in the outfield corners. Smith has hit well, so he may push the other two out of playing time when Kiermaier reclaims his spot in center.
At the GM meetings in Scottsdale, Arizona on Monday, Rays GM Erik Neander was named the recipient of Major League Baseball’s Executive of the Year Award for the 2019 season. The Yankees’ Brian Cashman was the runner-up while the Athletics’ Billy Beane and the Twins’ Derek Falvey tied for third place.
Neander has worked for the Rays since 2017 but has operated in his current role since November 2016, taking over for Matthew Silverman who was promoted to president of the Rays alongside Brian Auld.
The Rays had, by far, the lowest payroll in baseball at $53.5 million, according to USA TODAY. Neander’s peers voting him Executive of the Year on the same today the league had to curtail its awarding of a prize belt to the team that suppressed salaries the most in arbitration is… certainly interesting timing.
At any rate, Neander’s Rays went 96-66 in 2019, finishing in second place in the AL East behind the 103-59 Yankees. The Rays claimed the second AL Wild Card and defeated the A’s to earn entry into the ALDS where they lost in five games to the Astros. It was the Rays’ first playoff appearance since 2013 and their regular season win total was second-most in franchise history behind the 2008 team (97).