ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. – Though not surprising, Monday’s news that Kevin Kiermaier and Mike Zunino will not return this season was most unfortunate. After all, the veterans are clubhouse pillars who have been instrumental in the Rays’ recent success that includes an active run of three straight postseason appearances.
Kiermaier, who has been plagued by hip injuries this season, played July 9 at Cincinnati before being removed in the ninth inning and placed on the injured list the following day.
Zunino, who struggled offensively out of the gate this year after launching 33 homers and being selected to play in the all-star game last season, was placed on the IL June 10 with left shoulder inflammation that led to symptoms (numbness and tingling in his left arm) consistent with thoracic outlet syndrome.
It is entirely possible that both have played their last game in a Rays uniform. The 32-year-old and oft-injured Kiermaier is in the sixth and final year of a $53.5-million deal he signed during 2017 spring training. There is a 2023 club option at $13 million, though it seems likely the Rays would buy out the option for $2.5 million.
The 31-year-old Zunino is a free agent after this season. Following the 2020 season, the Rays declined the catcher’s $4.5-million option and ultimately re-signed him to a one-year, $2-million deal for 2021 with a club option for 2022. Thanks to meeting a 100-games played option escalator – Zunino played 109 games last year — he is being paid $7 million this season.
On-base machine: Yandy Diaz heads into Tuesday night’s game at Baltimore having reached base safely in 23 consecutive starts – he flew out as a pinch-hitter July 9 at Cincinnati — dating to June 26. During the streak, he is batting .383 (33-for-86) with 15 walks. In the month of July, Diaz is hitting .366 (26-for-71) with 15 of his 30 RBI and 10 of his 20 doubles.
On Sunday afternoon in Kansas City, Diaz hit his first home run, and fourth of the season, since May 14 at Tropicana Field against the Blue Jays.
“Whether he is hitting homers or not, we are really pleased with what Yandy is doing,” said manager Kevin Cash. “When he drives balls like that, it is really impressive.”
Welcome aboard: Roman Quinn is the newest member of the Rays, and the 51st player the club has utilized this season. The switch-hitting outfielder, who tripled in two runs in his team debut Saturday at Kansas City, played in 201 games over parts of six seasons (2016, 2018-22) with the Phillies. He hit .225 with a .648 OPS in 552 plate appearances and was 43-for-52 in stolen bases.
The 29-year-old Port St. Joe native committed to Florida State, but opted to sign with the Phillies after they selected him in the second round (66th overall) of the 2011 draft. Quinn was designated for assignment by Philadelphia in June and signed with Kansas City. He played in seven games with the Royals’ Triple-A affiliate in Omaha before being released on July 17.
Road woes: The Rays head into Tuesday night’s game 21-26 on the road after going 48-33 away from the Trop last season. Since May 8, they are 12-23 on the road, and, after losing to the Orioles on Monday night, they fell to 3-12 in road series openers this season.
Kids eat free: Beginning Friday night when Cleveland comes to town, and running through August, kids 14 and under can receive a small hot dog, chips, a small fountain drink and Hi-Chew candy free of charge. The free meal is available exclusively via mobile ordering on the MLB Ballpark app at three concession locations throughout the Trop: Whoa Doggy’s in the First Base Food Hall and Third Base Food Hall, and Southern Fried in Center Field Street. Meals may be claimed using the promo code KIDSEATFREE for up to four kids per game.
Upcoming: Following their four-game series in Baltimore, the Rays begin a five-game homestand Friday night when they host Cleveland for the first of three-weekend games. Following a day off next Monday, the Blue Jays are at the Trop Tuesday night and Wednesday afternoon…..Saturday afternoon’s game against the Guardians features a Brett Phillips Devil Rays basketball jersey, which will be given to all fans. On Sunday, kids 14 and under will receive a cereal bowl cup set.