Rays’ Kiermaier ponders future after hip surgery ends season

Kevin Kiermaier
Julio Aguilar/Getty Images

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — Tampa Bay Rays center fielder Kevin Kiermaier expects to be ready for opening day next year following season-ending left hip surgery, but what team that will be with is yet to be determined.

The 32-year-old Kiermaier is in the final season of a $53.5 million, six-year contract agreed to in March 2017. The Rays have a team option for 2023, which they will likely decline.

While Kiermaier is focused on his rehab program, he also understands that this time with Tampa Bay that dates to his major league debut in 2013 could be over. He is open to staying with the Rays.

“I’m driven, I’m motivated, this is like, for me, chasing something again,” Kiermaier said on Saturday. “I’m going to do everything in my power to try to look like the player I was a couple years ago, and hopefully a team, several teams will be wanting me. That’s what I plan, and I’m very excited.”

The three-time AL Gold Glove winner was using crutches when he appeared in the Rays clubhouse for the first time since surgery before Tampa Bay played the Baltimore Orioles. He will use the crutches for three more weeks.

Kiermaier hit .228 with seven home runs and 22 RBIs in 63 games this season.

One issue Kiermaier faces when looking ahead is that the Rays’ Tropicana Field has an artificial turf playing surface.

“Part of me is like, would I benefit from playing on grass everyday, maybe,” Kiermaier said. “I’ve got so accustomed to everything here. There’s so many pros and cons, way more pros, but the turf that’s definitely a big issue.”

“For me, there’s no better feeling than running out on Tropicana Field from the dugout to start a game,” he said. “That will forever be the thing that I think of. It will be interesting to see what happens moving forward.”

Kiermaier said he was in “really rough shape”over the last year and a half due to issues with the labrum. He last played on July 9.

“My labrum was in terrible shaoe,” Kiermaier said. “Looked awful. (The doctor) showed me pictures on before and after, and it was incredible I played as long as what I did.”

Kiermaier feels way better than expected a week and a half after surgery and called the procedure “a complete win.”

“Throughout this month that I’ve been down, I’ve reflected a lot on a lot of things,” Kiermaier said. “A lot of memories here, I’m going to try and not tear up, but I’ve learned that the things that can make me tear and cry pretty easily are my kids and Tampa Bay Rays.”

Aaron Judge out of Yankees starting lineup for finale after No. 62

Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

ARLINGTON, Texas — Yankees slugger Aaron Judge wasn’t in the starting lineup for New York’s regular-season finale, a day after his 62nd home run that broke Roger Maris’ 61-year-old American League single-season record.

When Judge homered in the first inning Tuesday night, in the second game of a doubleheader against the Texas Rangers, it was his 55th consecutive game. He has played in 157 games overall for the AL East champions.

With the first-round bye in the playoffs, the Yankees won’t open postseason play until the AL Division Series starts next Tuesday.

Even though Judge had indicated that he hoped to play Wednesday, manager Aaron Boone said after Tuesday night’s game that they would have a conversation and see what made the most sense.

“Short conversation,” Boone said before Wednesday’s game, adding that he was “pretty set on probably giving him the day today.”

Asked if there was a scenario in which Judge would pinch hit, Boone responded, “I hope not.”

Judge went into the final day of the regular season batting .311, trailing American League batting average leader Minnesota’s Luis Arraez, who was hitting .315. Judge was a wide leader in the other Triple Crown categories, with his 62 homers and 131 RBIs.

Boone said that “probably the one temptation” to play Judge had been the long shot chance the slugger had to become the first AL Triple Crown winner since Detroit’s Miguel Cabrera in 2012.