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Tampa Bay Rays: Kiermaier set to return against Baltimore

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Seven weeks on the disabled list with a fractured hand, Tampa Bay Rays center-fielder begins a minor league rehab assignment.

Relief is on the way and barring any setbacks the 2015 AL Gold Glove and Platinum Glove Award Winner Kevin Kiermaier will return to the lineup on Friday night when the Tampa Bay Rays host the Baltimore Orioles.

Kiermaier traveled with the Rays to Boston and on Friday night took live batting practice for the first time since sustaining a fractured left hand against the Detroit Tigers on May 21 that required surgery.

The first rehab stop will take Kiermaier to Port Charlotte, Florida where he’ll play in a Gulf Coast League game on Monday. Wednesday and Thursday Kiermaier is schedule to play in games with the Charlotte Stone Crabs, the Rays Single-A team.

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A big test though comes on Tuesday when Kiermaier will face live pitching from a couple of his teammates – Alex Cobb and Brad Boxberger. Cobb is working his way back from Tommy John surgery and is on schedule to make a mid to late August return to the Rays, while Boxberger who has been out with an oblique strain looks for a return within the next two-weeks.

Kiermaier was hitting .236 with five home runs, six SBs and 16 RBIs in 123 at-bats when he sustained his injury. However, it’s not the offensive numbers the Tampa Bay Rays are looking at upon his return.

Defense is his game

His defensive play has been the key to his game, but what he provides on the base paths, his hustle on the diamond and in the outfield has been sorely missed and his return will be a big boost which should play a significant part in a turn-around for the Rays in the second half.

In the 47 games that Kiermaier has been on the disabled list, the Tampa Bay Rays Rays are 14-34 and have used Desmond Jennings, Brandon Guyer, Mikie Mahtook, Jaff Decker and Steven Souza Jr. in center field.

Next: Trying To Unravel The Mystery of the Ray's Demise

Kiermaier was selected in the 31st round of the 2010 MLB Draft by the Tampa Bay Rays and he made his major league debut on Sept. 30, 2013 (Game 163), which was the Rays wild-card tiebreaker game as a defensive replacement in the ninth inning against the Texas Rangers.

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