Kiermaier gets first callup, joins Rays in Texas

Kiermaier gets first callup, joins Rays in Texas

ARLINGTON -- Kevin Kiermaier was lounging in his apartment in Port Charlotte, Fla., on Sunday, watching the series finale of "Breaking Bad," when suddenly a call came in from Jeff McLerran, the Rays' assistant of Minor League operations.

On Monday morning, he was boarding a flight to Texas to get his first Major League callup and join the Rays for game No. 163.

"I knew that I was going to surprise this organization," Kiermaier said. "Even though I was a 31st-rounder [in 2010], it was all about the opportunity. If I play well and I do what I have to do on the field, they're going to have to make a decision on me sooner or later, as my career goes along. Today's the day -- Sept. 30, 2013."

Kiermaier -- a 23-year-old left-handed-hitting outfielder who has spent the majority of his pro career in center field -- was essentially insurance for Desmond Jennings, who has been battling a tight left hamstring since Sept. 22, but nonetheless returned to the starting lineup for Monday's tiebreaker.

Manager Joe Maddon called Kiermaier "one of the best young defenders in the game" and proved his confidence in him in Game 163, bringing Kiermaier in as a defensive replacement in center for the ninth inning of an eventual 5-2 win.

Kiermaier spent a combined 136 games at Double-A and Triple-A this season, posting a .295/.362/.431 slash line with six homers, 41 RBIs and 21 stolen bases. Immediately after the Bulls' season ended, the Rays sent him to instructional league in Port Charlotte. And on Friday, they told him to stick around a little longer because of Jennings' hamstring issue.

"I came a long way from the last few years of my Minor League career, and to be up here now is awesome," Kiermaier said. "I'm just glad that Tampa Bay is giving me an opportunity. Hopefully, I can make an impact one way or the other. I'm real excited about the opportunity. I'm on cloud nine right now."

Alden Gonzalez is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Gonzo and "The Show", and follow him on Twitter @Alden_Gonzalez. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.