Kiermaier impressing with hitting, hustle

Kiermaier impressing with hitting, hustle

ST. PETERSBURG -- Since being promoted from Triple-A Durham on May 17, outfielder Kevin Kiermaier has caught everyone's attention with his hustle and his hitting.

Going into Saturday's game against the Mariners, the 24-year-old speedster, who was sent back to the Minor Leagues after two brief callups earlier this season, was leading the Rays with a .406 average. He had three home runs, four RBIs and a stolen base.

"He has had his opportunity and he has taken advantage of it," manager Joe Maddon said. "He's probably playing offensively at maybe his highest level.

"The guy loves to play. You've got to appreciate it if you are a teammate or manager or coach. You've got to go out with your eyes wide open. You've got to play with your hair on fire, just like he's doing right now. You can enjoy watching this guy play every day.

"If I'm any other player on this team and watch the way he plays and I'm not impacted by that, then my eyes are closed.

"I want to believe it's going to be very contagious," Maddon continued. "I mean, the kid plays the game the right way, the proper way."

"It's kind of how I've always been," said the left-handed-hitting Kiermaier. "I might have some unorthodox swings at times, but I can get some hits out of it sometimes. I just want to make the best of every opportunity I get. I just try to put the ball in play as much as I can. It might not look pretty sometimes, but it works every now and then."

Jim Hawkins is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.