1:43PM: Rays manager Kevin Cash told reporters (including The Tampa Bay Times’ Marc Topkin) that Kiermaier is receiving another COVID test today, and already tested negative during the Rays’ series against the Blue Jays earlier this week. The team’s feeling is that Kiermaier likely has a non-COVID sickness.
12:03PM: The Rays have placed outfielder Kevin Kiermaier on the COVID-related injury list. Right-hander Joey Krehbiel’s contract has been selected from Triple-A to take Kiermaier’s spot on the active roster.
The official announcement from the team says that Kiermaier has been sidelined due to “general illness/symptoms,” without mention of a positive test. Of course, league protocols stipulate that positive COVID-19 tests don’t need to be publicly announced without the player’s permission. Kiermaier’s placement could simply be precautionary in nature while he recovers from a non-COVID illness, so he could be back on the field in only a day or two.
Kiermaier has previously visited the regular injured list twice this season, though both stints (for a quad strain and a wrist sprain) ended up being pretty close to the 10-day minimum in terms of missed time. The 31-year-old is hitting .247/.310/.369 with four home runs over 355 plate appearances this season, and is having what has become a typical Kiermaier year — slightly below-average offense, and superb defense. Kiermaier’s center field glovework has been as stellar as ever, thus making him a 2.0 fWAR player over 110 games even factoring in his 89 wRC+.
After tossing three innings over two games with the Diamondbacks in 2018, Krehbiel is now back for another taste of the Show. Originally a 12th-round pick for the Angels back in the 2011 draft, Krehbiel has worked almost exclusively as a reliever over his 10 minor league seasons, and struggled once hitting the Triple-A level in Arizona’s farm system in 2018-19.
Krehbiel signed a minor league deal with Tampa Bay this past offseason, and has posted some much more intriguing numbers at Triple-A Durham. The righty has a 4.19 ERA over 43 innings, plus a 29.5% strikeout rate and 5.1% walk rate, with the improved control being particularly notable since walks were an issue for Krehbiel in his past Triple-A action. Given how the Rays cycle through relief arms, Krehbiel might only be in for another cup of coffee in the majors, or the Rays might give Krehbiel some extra work while saving other relievers for the postseason.