Kevin Kiermaier returned home this week. He intends to stay.
For Kiermaier, of course, home is center field.
He wants to stay there, Kiermaier told reporters as he showed up for spring training. Kiermaier, the gold-glove winner for the Tampa Bay Rays, said he wants to play 155 games this year.
For Kiermaier, that means he has to do a better job of hitting against lefthanders (he hit only .231 last year).
“I know I can hit lefties,” he said. “I have I will. I think that’s going to be the final thing for me, just to prove to everyone that I can consistenty hit lefties. Even thougth I don’t hit them for power, I know I can put the ball in play in play and put pressure on the defense.
Last year, Kiermaier hit .246 against lefties and .270 against righties.
With Kiermaier, however, his play in centerfield is good enough to make up for some dip in his average.
“I think I showed everyone that me being out there in centerfield gives us a great chance of winning,” Keiermaier said.
Kiermaier has become one of those local-legend type players. An MLB survey recently had him ranked only seventh among centerfielders. Manager Kevin Cash called the ranking “stupid.”