HOUSTON – Two days after making a spectacular bases-loaded, inning-ending diving catch against St. Louis, RF Kevin Kiermaier continued to be a hot topic in the Rays’ clubhouse Friday, particularly after the catch was voted the No. 1 play of the day on ESPN’s “SportsCenter.”
“I didn’t even know,” Kiermaer said, “I got a random text that said it was No. 1 on ‘SportsCenter’s’ top plays ... that’s awesome.’’
The diving catch conjured comparisons to a diving catch made by Sam Fuld in Chicago during the 2011 season, a defensive play that helped spark the Rays out of a slump. 2B Ben Zobrist had a good view for each of the plays.
“That was a big spot to make that catch, and that one is the more fresh, but it was a more impactful catch overall,’’ Zobrist said of Kiermaier’s play. “Just seeing where he started his leap from and how he just kind of had that extra bounce, getting up to the ball, it was another one of those ‘wow’ moments. He definitely has some athletic ability that most guys don’t have.’’
When Kiermaier made his way back to the dugout, it was the pitchers who made their way over to greet him as he came off the field.
“To have the pitchers come up to me and give me a hug and say ‘That was awesome,’ that’s what it is all about,’’ Kiermaier said. “I love helping the pitchers out. I always tell them I want to be the favorite outfielder of your career, I take a lot of pride in my defense, and to get the recognition for it, feels really good. (David) Price was pretty thrilled about it, he said he got goosebumps, so hearing that come from him is really cool for me, to have a player of his caliber come up to me ... that’s why I’m aggressive, that’s the only way I know, and that’s how I’ll play for my entire career.’’
Rays’ manager Joe Maddon has stated many times he believes Kiermaier is the best defensive outfielder in the majors, even with only 20 games of MLB experience.
“Truly, if he doesn’t make that catch the other night, St. Louis probably beats us,’’ Maddon said. “That was spectacular.’’
RHP Jeremy Hellickson failed to get out of the third inning in his rehab start with Triple-A Durham on Thursday, allowing four runs on six hits, throwing 55 pitches, 35 for strikes. It was the second rehab start for Hellickson, who has been out all season after having right elbow surgery on March 30.
“I guess he got beat up a little bit, but I’ll have to find out from our trainer to find out how he feels,’’ Maddon said. “The results were not there, but that doesn’t really matter right now, just the fact that he’s well is what matters.’’
Hellickson is scheduled to make his next start for Durham on Tuesday against Louisville.
In addition to Hellickson, OF Brandon Guyer is expected to serve as the designated hitter for Durham today, and he could play in the outfield for the Bulls on Sunday. Guyer has been out since May 26 with a fractured thumb.
1B James Loney returned to his hometown Friday, having grown up in nearby Missouri City, Texas.
During his high-school days, when he was a highly touted left-handed pitcher, Loney played a handful of games at the AstroDome, as well as one at Minute Maid Park.
“It’s always fun coming back,’’ said Loney, who had to secure about a dozen tickets for family and friends. “It’s still special to come back, it’s the team you watched growing up.’’
Loney entered the game with a career .342 average (27-for-79) in games at Houston.
The Rays claimed RHP Angel Sanchez off waivers from Miami on Friday and added him to the 40-man roster. Sanchez was assigned to Double-A Montgomery.
Tampa Bay had an opening on the 40-man roster, so a corresponding roster move was not needed to add the 23-year-old.
In 12 starts with Jacksonville in the Southern League this season, Sanchez posted an 0-8 record with 6.88 ERA in 521⁄3 innings pitched.