In Game 163 of 2013, Kevin Kiermaier made his major league debut. After Game 10 of 2014, Kiermaier is already back. As first reported by Marc Topkin, he soon-to-be 24 year old has been called up to replace left-hander Jeff Beliveau and provide the Rays with an extra position player. Kiermaier will likely be sent down prior to Sunday’s game, but for the next few days, he gives the Rays the flexibility they have been lacking on their roster this season.
The most important thing about Kevin Kiermaier for the Rays right now is that he is left-handed hitter. With all three of their bench players–Sean Rodriguez, Logan Forsythe, and Brandon Guyer–all being right-handed, the Rays found themselves without a single lefty pinch-hit option when the opposing team sent a right-hander to the mound. Kiermaier finally changes that, and the timing could not be better for Kiermaier to come up. This weekend, the Rays are taking on the Cincinnati Reds under National League rules, and having that extra pinch-hit option to replace the pitcher is a major luxury, But if the opportunity arises, Kiermaier can do more than pinch-hit. Kiermaier is a superb defensive centerfielder who could be an option to replace Matt Joyce, David DeJesus, or Wil Myers as a defensive replacement. Desmond Jennings might even move to left field if he does so. Aside from that, Kiermaier could also be a pinch-runner. He is still working on his basestealing, but if the Rays are trying to score a runner from first on a double, Kiermaier might be the best bet on the team. It is pretty cool to have a player who could conceivably be a pinch-hitter relatively early in a game or a pinch-runner or defensive replacement later on. We know how much the Rays value versatility, and Kiermaier’s ability to do so many things is exactly what the Rays were looking for as they decided who to call up.
Kevin Kiermaier has aspirations of being more than a bench player. With a strong season at the plate, we could see Kiermaier come back to the big leagues as a legitimate starting outfield option for the Rays. But for now, they are excited to have him as an extremely valuable bench player, and we will have to see what type of impact he can make.