The Rays are likely to place outfielders Manuel Margot and Kevin Kiermaier on the 10-day injured list, manager Kevin Cash told reporters (including Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times). Both players made early exits from tonight’s loss to the Yankees, and Margot in particular seems to be facing an extended absence.
Margot had to be carted off the field in the top of the ninth inning. Playing right field, he leaped into the wall in pursuit of an Aaron Hicks flyball. He landed awkwardly on his right knee after the collision and had to be carted off the field. Cash said after the game he’s been diagnosed with a knee sprain and ominously noted “it doesn’t look good.”
Kiermaier, meanwhile, departed after the second inning. The team later announced he was dealing with inflammation in his left hip, and that issue will apparently require he miss at least a week and a half. It marked the second time in five days that Kiermaier had to make an early exit, and while his latest issue is different than the Achilles inflammation that forced his departure last Wednesday, it’ll lead to an absence of some kind.
Needless to say, the loss of a couple regular outfielders will force Tampa Bay to dip into its depth. Randy Arozarena has started at designated hitter in each of the past two nights, but he’ll now head back to the left field on a more or less everyday basis. Highly regarded rookie Josh Lowe was recalled before tonight’s game after a six-week stint in Triple-A Durham. He figures to assume regular reps in either center or right field, but it remains to be seen how much of an offensive impact he’ll make. The 24-year-old has only a .179/.257/.328 line through his first 75 MLB plate appearances; he posted big numbers with the Bulls but also struck out at an alarming 31.2% rate in the minors.
Tampa Bay has a pair of out-of-options backup outfielders on the active roster in Brett Phillips and Harold Ramirez. Both players could assume larger roles with Margot and Kiermaier out, but each would probably be miscast as an everyday player. Phillips is an excellent defender but is hitting .172/.238/.291 with a 41.6% strikeout rate. Ramírez is performing at the plate (.297/.337/.386) but has rated as a well below-average defender throughout his career.
The Rays could turn to a loose platoon arrangement between the left-handed hitting Phillips and the righty-swinging Ramírez in right field with Lowe playing center, particularly if they anticipate Kiermaier’s absence being on the shorter side. Train Dodger Luke Raley is on the 40-man roster and hitting well in Durham, and he could be reminded to add some offense-first bench depth. It seems likely the club will at least poke around the market for potential external additions, though, considering the amount of uncertainty with each of Lowe, Phillips, Ramírez and Raley.
It has been a rough stretch for the Rays, who’ve been without their primary middle infield of Brandon Lowe and Wander Franco and their #1 backstop Mike Zunino for weeks. The losses of Margot and Kiermaier will leave the club without five of their regular position players, and it’s little surprise the team has sputtered of late. Tampa Bay has dropped six of their past seven games to fall to 36-31. They now sit a half-game back of the Red Sox for the final Wild Card spot in the American League.
The rough injury news wasn’t limited to what happened tonight, as Cash also provided a discouraging update on relieving Nick Anderson pregame. The right-hander has been on the IL all season after undergoing a UCL brace procedure last October. His initial recovery timeline suggests a possible return around the All-Star Break, but Cash said he’s still feeling elbow discomfort and will go for further evaluation tomorrow (Topkin link). More will obviously be known in the coming days, but it seems unlikely the 31-year-old will be back on a major league mound in the near future.