NEW YORK, NY – APRIL 04: Kevin Kiermaier #39 of the Tampa Bay Rays in action against the New York Yankees at Yankee Stadium on April 4, 2018 in the Bronx borough of New York City. The Yankees defeated the Rays 7-2. (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)

The Tampa Bay Rays are off to a 3-12 start, but that is not the worst news of the week for the franchise. The team announced Monday that star OF Kevin Kiermaier is headed to the DL with a torn ligament in his right thumb. Tampa Bay indicated he will indeed need surgery. Marc Topkin with The Tampa Bay Times reported that Kiermaier is expected to miss 8-12 weeks, but the Rays have not released or confirmed a timetable.

Tampa Bay Rays Place Kevin Kiermaier on DL

Kiermaier initially sustained the injury sliding into second base during Sunday’s game. An MRI Monday morning confirmed the injury would require surgery and will force Kiermaier to miss significant time. While the Rays were not expected to compete in the AL East, Kiermaier’s injury is still a tough one for fans to swallow.

Tampa Bay is off to an abysmal start, and Kiermaier has also endured a slow start to 2018. He was hitting .163/.250/.233 with just seven hits and 18 strikeouts through his first 12 games played. Coming into this season, Kiermaier was riding a streak of three straight seasons with at least 10 HRs, 16 steals, and 55 runs scored, all while providing elite defense in CF. Now the two-time Gold Glove winner will head to the DL and await surgery.

Outlook

While the loss of Kiermaier’s defense and leadership is significant, Tampa Bay has a player ready to slot into the vacant CF spot. Youngster Mallex Smith has played in LF and RF this season, but his natural position coming up was actually CF. Additionally, Smith is the one player on the Rays roster that is off to a strong start. He is slashing .350/.409/.475 and leads the Rays in batting average and slugging percentage. Smith also has two triples, five runs scored, three RBI, and two steals on the young season.

There’s no denying the Rays will miss Kiermaier during his absence, but the injury does open an opportunity for Smith. If Smith continues to play well, he will help form the base of a solid outfield for Tampa Bay alongside Kiermaier.

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