By Bryan Levine, SunCoast Sports
PORT CHARLOTTE — Kevin Kiermaier had no intentions of pushing things too hard Thursday in his first rehab appearance with the Charlotte Stone Crabs, but his bat had other ideas.
The Tampa Bay Rays centerfielder had a pair of broken bat groundballs that left him with no option but to hustle down the first base line.
“It felt good just playing baseball again,” Kiermaier said. “I didn’t expect to set the world on fire tonight. … I was running hard, but it’s one of those things where I’m still trying to progress everything.”
The two-time defending Gold Glove winner had just one fly ball hit in his direction while playing four innings in the field. Both of his ground balls went for outs.
Kiermaier said he’ll play today and Saturday with the Stone Crabs. He said he will be the designated hitter in the finale against the Blue Jays, and then play centerfield when Tim Tebow and St. Lucie visit for the opener of a four-game series.
He was placed on the 60-day disabled list back in June after a feet-first slide at first base caused him to fracture his hip. He still has roughly two weeks until he’s able to be activated.
Prior to the injury, the centerfielder was batting .258 in 62 games with a .329 on-base percentage, 19 extra-base hits and 30 runs scored.
The 27-year-old signed a six-year, $53.5 million deal in the offseason which could keep him in Tampa through the 2023 season with a team option.