The Rays will likely place outfielders Manuel Margot and Kevin Kiermaier On the 10-day injured list, manager Kevin Cash told reporters (including Marc Topkins of Tampa Bay Times). Both players were eliminated early after tonight’s loss to the Yankees, and Margot in particular appears to be facing an extended absence.
Margot had to be carried off the field in the top of the ninth inning. He played right field and jumped into the wall to chase you Aaron Hicks volleyball. He landed unhappily on his right knee after the collision and had to be carried off the field. Cash said after the game he was diagnosed with a sprained knee, remarking ominously: “it does not look good.”
Meanwhile, Kiermaier was eliminated after the second inning. The team later revealed he was dealing with inflammation in his left hip and this problem will apparently require him to be absent for at least a week and a half. It was the second time in five days that Kiermaier had had an early retirement and while his latest problem is different from the Achilles tendonitis that forced his exit last Wednesday, it will result in something of an absence.
Needless to say, the loss of a few regular outfielders will force Tampa Bay to delve into its depths. Randy Arozarena has started out as a designated hitter for the last two nights each, but he’ll be returning to left field more or less daily now. Highly respected rookie Josh Lowe was recalled before tonight’s game after a six-week stint at Triple-A Durham. He expects to take on regular reps in either middle or right field, but it remains to be seen just how strong he will be on offense. The 24-year-old has just a .179/.257/.328 line in his first 75 MLB plate appearances; He scored big in the Bulls but also hit in the minors at an alarming 31.2% rate.
Tampa Bay has a pair of out-of-options backup outfielders on the active roster Brett Phillips and Harold Ramirez. Both players could play bigger roles with Margot and Kiermaier, but both would probably be miscast as everyday players. Phillips is an excellent defender but hits .172/.238/.291 with a 41.6% strikeout rate. Ramírez plays at the plate (.297/.337/.386) but has been ranked as a well-below average defender throughout his career.
The Rays could move to a loose draw arrangement between left-hander Phillips and right-swinger Ramírez in right field, with Lowe playing in the middle, especially if they expect Kiermaier to be absent on the shorter side. Former Dodger Luke Raley is on the 40-man squad and is hitting well at Durham and he could be called back to add some attacking depth on the bench. However, it seems likely that the club will be looking at the market at least for potential outside additions given the level of uncertainty surrounding Lowe, Phillips, Ramírez and Raley.
It was a tough time for the Rays, who were without their primary midfielder Brandon Lowe and Wander Franco and her #1 backstop Mike Zunino for weeks. The losses of Margot and Kiermaier will leave the club without five of their regular position players and it’s unsurprising that the team has faltered of late. Tampa Bay has dropped six of its last seven games to 36-31. They now sit a half game behind the Red Sox for the last wild card spot in the American League.
The rough injury news wasn’t limited to what happened tonight as Cash also provided a disheartening update on Reliever Nick Anderson Foreplay. The right-hander has been in the IL all season after undergoing UCL braces last October. His initial recovery schedule pointed to a possible return around the All-Star break, but Cash said he still has elbow problems and will have a further evaluation tomorrow (Topkin link). More will obviously be revealed in the coming days, but it seems unlikely the 31-year-old will be back on a Major League mound anytime soon.