The way we have talked about Kevin Kiermaier here the last couple of days, it is clear that the Rays Colored Glasses staff is impressed by the way that the 24-year old outfielder plays the game. But we aren’t the only ones impressed. Kiermaier had only been on the roster for the past few days because Desmond Jennings had been placed on the bereavement list. But, to accommodate Jennings’ return to the team, the Rays elected to send down reliever Brandon Gomes to Triple-A and keep Kiermaier around for at least a couple more days.
Despite Gomes being sent down, the Rays will be at normal strength in the bullpen. Cesar Ramos will move from the rotation to the bullpen and should be available Tuesday night. Alex Cobb will then take Ramos’ spot in the rotation on Friday. But, the Rays don’t need to activate him until then, so essentially the Rays will have just four starting pitchers instead of five on the roster until Cobb is activated for his start. This is what opens up the extra roster spot for Kiermaier. Still, the Rays bullpen has been overused this entire year, and they easily could have elected to send down Kiermaier and retain Gomes for the next few days in order to give them 8 men in the bullpen. The fact that Kiermaier was kept around is a testament to how much of an impact the Rays believe Kiermaier can have in the next few days. He is almost guaranteed to be sent down prior to Thursday’s game with Cobb returning, but the Rays believe he can use his plus-plus defense to change the outcome of games until then, even with Jennings returning to his everyday centerfield job.
While it is exciting that Kiermaier is staying on the roster, it is quite the fall of grace for Gomes, who was one of the Rays’ most reliable relievers through the first 30 games of the season. But, after giving up 7 runs in his last 6.1 innings, he quickly found himself as a less than desirable option. To Gomes’ defense, he probably wasn’t the worst reliever on the Rays roster. That title would go to Josh Lueke, but he is out of options and Gomes had a remaining option, so Gomes was the odd man out. Brad Boxberger also had a remaining option, and he had been sent down instead of Gomes on a couple of occasions this year. But, he has pitched to a 2.08 ERA compared to Gomes’ 4.91, so the decision was a no-brainer this time around. Gomes will try to regain his early season form in Triple-A, and he will likely be the first call if the Rays need another bullpen arm. But for now, it appears that with Ramos moving back to the ‘pen, the Rays have found the 7 relievers that they plan on keeping for the long haul.
Kevin Kiermaier has impressed everyone that has watched him play despite appearing in just a handful of big league games. He plays such good defense, including catches like this, that he is going to have a positive effect on every game he plays in. But, his bat also has ability, and he showed that when he smacked a 2-run home run in Sunday’s game. The Rays must think quite a bit of him, as they decided to forgo additional rest for the bullpen by keeping Kiermaier around and instead sending down Brandon Gomes with Desmond Jennings returning to the club. Because of the way he played in the past two games, Kiermaier has earned himself an extra few days on the Rays roster. We have to know that he is going to make the most of the extended opportunity.