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Tuesday, Aug 21, 2018
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Tampa Bay Rays

Kevin Kiermaier frustrated as injuries continue

ST. PETERSBURG — This season has been quite a pain for Rays centerfielder and centerpiece Kevin Kiermaier.

A cold bat, a nagging illness, a searing foul ball we'll come back to shortly and a torn thumb ligament that required surgery, all in the first 2½ weeks, pretty much defined a bad start.

The two-plus months he missed recovering and rehabbing felt interminable, especially for someone with his high metabolism and low patience.

The rough first couple weeks back, with his thumb barking and his average further dropping, had him wondering what more he could do, and what else could go wrong.

"It's been a frustrating year,'' Kiermaier said. "I keep saying I'm being tested.''

And now there's more.

Just when Kiermaier finally started to feel good for a while at the plate going into the All-Star break, he couldn't have come out of it feeling worse, surrendering to a spike in the pain in his right foot.

That it was bad enough for him to take himself out of Friday's game, which he detests and considers embarrassing, was something.

That it stemmed from the ball he fouled off his foot nine games into the season — 15 weeks ago! — was something else.

"It's frustrating,'' he said. "I just didn't think an injury that happened April 8 would be an issue to this point today.''

The injury is a severe bone bruise, which given the way it has lingered seems worse than if he had instead just broken a bone and had to let it heal for the standard 6-8 weeks.

Kiermaier hadn't said anything until now, but apparently the pain had been peaking at times since his June 19 return form the DL, more so recently, to push his limits.

He figured the four-day break would do him good, especially with plans to spend most of it back home in Indiana relaxing.

Friday, he went hard in his first at-bat, stretching a double and then scoring from second. The reward? "Kind of the breaking point for me,'' he said.

The good news was that a Saturday morning MRI didn't show anything different and a cortisone shot has Kiermaier counting on this absence being short-term. He is hoping to be feeling somewhere between 85 and 100 percent when he wakes up Monday and returning to action against the Yankees that night at the Trop — but that's not certain.

“I’m not happy I’m going to miss two more games after what I’ve gone through this year so far,’’ Kiermaier said Saturday afternoon. “But if that’s what it takes for me to feel good the rest of the way I’ll take it gladly.’’

Kiermaier knows playing hurt is part of playing in the majors.

"Every player has to deal with stuff each and every day,'' he said. "But the stuff I've been dealing with has been a little more than what most people do for the most part.''

Especially when that includes missing significant parts of three straight seasons with injuries.

There was the left hand he broke diving for a ball in 2016 that cost him 48 games.

There was the right hip he fractured sliding into first in 2017 that cost him 61 games.

And there was that right thumb ligament he tore going headfirst into second this April that cost him 57 games.

"It's frustrating,'' he said. "It always seems like it's always been something with me.''

That includes a reputation — deserved or not — for being fragile, or not tough enough to play through injuries. Kiermaier is aware, and a scroll through social media Saturday would remind with fans calling him "Glassmaier" and derivatives of porcelain because he always breaks.

"Me as a speed player, I have to go out there and feel pretty close to 100 percent in what I'm asked to do, to provide what I do, offensively, defensively, on the bases,'' he explained.

This miserable season on the field, with a .183 average and .548 OPS, comes at a time when his life off the field appears grand.

Kiermaier before last season signed a long-term deal guaranteeing more than $53 million, got married in a picture-perfect November wedding and he and Marisa announced in late April they were expecting this November, adding in May it would be a boy.

"Life is good,'' he said. "I'm not going to let these things affect me. I'm very thankful and blessed with what I have going on in my life. I'm being tested. These are a few obstacles I have to get around. I'll be just fine.

"But right now it's not a whole lot of fun.''

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