ST. PETERSBURG — It didn't take CF Kevin Kiermaier long to make his presence felt during his return Friday to the Rays lineup. Kiermaier pretended to have Mariners DH Nelson Cruz's first-inning line drive lined up even as the ball went past him to his right and to the wall.
With runners on first and second and one out, Kiermaier said he wanted Robinson Cano, who was on first, thinking he ball would be caught.
The Mariners scored one run on the double, but not two. Cano could only advance to third. He and Cruz would later score as the Mariners greeted Rays rookie RHP Austin Pruitt with a three-run first in the 7-1 victory.
"I was deking," Kiermaier said. "I was just trying to slow (Cano), because I knew I couldn't catch it. You never know if it's going to work. Sometimes it works, and it's a matter of the third base coach holding a guy like that. But I saw it the whole time."
Kiermaier, who missed 61 games with a right hip fracture and a lower back strain, said he hoped to inject some life into the Rays (60-64), who remain three games out of the second wild-card spot.
"I'm ecstatic to be back here," Kiermaier said before the game. "I miss these guys a ton. I want to create a spark of bring energy any way I can."
To make room on the roster, CF Mallex Smith was optioned to Triple A Durham.
"We all know the energy (Kiermaier) provides on defense, at the plate, on a daily basis," manager Kevin Cash said. "We're going to hope to feed off it here to get us back going again. It's not all on KK, but his presence will surely help."
Kiermaier was 1-for-19 during his second turn at a minor-league rehab with Class A Charlotte. He said despite the lack of hits he was happy with the way he was seeing the ball.
"I proved to myself that my body is game-ready to rock 'n' roll and play centerfield every day if they want me," he said.
Kiermaier on Friday became the seventh player to bat leadoff this season as Cash continues to search for solutions to end the offensive drought.
"Why wouldn't he be the best option?" Cash asked. "We tried some other guys up there. It's not clicked for whatever reason. Not pinning it on anybody. It's an entire lineup that's scuffling at the plate."
As for Smith, he heads to Durham having hit .279 with a .342 on-base percentage in 67 games. He stole 16 of 20 bases and had five of the Rays' 10 bunt hits.
"I think Mallex knows that he has the capabilities of being a special player," Cash said. "He's still a very young player … he was going to have some hiccups."
Quote of the day
"Energy ain't going to get it done. Hits and runs are going to get it done."
Cash, when asked repeatedly before Friday's game about the energy Kiermaier can bring to the lineup
Morrison honored for getting dirty
1B/DH Logan Morrison received the 2017 Rays Heart and Hustle Award by the Major League Baseball Players alumni Association. One player from each team is selected for their passion, desire and work ethic both on and off the field.
Morrison, who had three hits in his last 22 at-bats, was not in the lineup Friday. He was given a day off.
RHP Matt Andriese (right hip) was struck on the left ankle Friday with a comebacker on the second pitch of his rehab start with Class A Charlotte. He left the game, walking to the clubhouse without a limp.