Even in BP, Kiermaier fun to watch on defense

Even in BP, Kiermaier fun to watch on defense

PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. -- Logan Morrison hit a bomb on one of the back fields during a recent batting-practice session, and the newcomer to the Rays chirped, "Catch that one, Kiermaier!"

Morrison, like others in camp, never ceases to marvel at Kevin Kiermaier and his endless pool of energy. Typically, most Major Leaguers shag fly balls during batting practice like it's a hazard of the job. Then there's Kiermaier, who brings to mind a dog chasing a Frisbee, like he can't wait for the next one to come his way.

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"He's got a lot of energy," Morrison said. "How old is he?"

For the record, Kiermaier is 25, and he's been anointed the American League's Gold Glove winner in center field and the league's best fielder as per his Platinum Glove.

"I think other guys do it [during batting practice], they just don't look as cool or fast," Morrison said.

Morrison noted that the only time he's seen Kiermaier play in a game was last season.

"And the only thing I really remember was a ball that [Kyle] Seager hit, and I think it was a grand slam. It was to, like, win the game," said Morrison, referencing the Mariners' 7-6 win at Tropicana Field on May 26. "When he hit it, people in the dugout were like, 'Kiermaier's out there.' And he almost caught it before it hit the back wall. He's pretty special."

Rocco Baldelli saw Kiermaier play a lot when he came up through the Rays' system. Baldelli had been an advisor for the organization prior to becoming the outfield coach. When asked what he thought the first time he saw Kiermaier shagging balls, Baldelli said, "That's what you're trying to encourage."

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"Especially at the lower levels, when guys are still improving a great amount year to year and truly need a lot of that work, that's what you're hoping they do," Baldelli said. "He's just maintained it for his entire career."

Baldelli said Kiermaier has always treated batting practice like a time to work on his skills.

"He's always had that motivation to go out there," Baldelli said. "He's a competitive guy, I feel like he challenges himself every day during batting practice to make players maybe that he's never made before. He's always liked to work. He's always been very motivated to work. And he's never really wavered from that from the time he was in A ball."

Rays manager Kevin Cash allowed that not many players treat shagging fly balls like the way Kiermaier does.

"And that's why he's as special as he is," Cash said. "He's good, and if he didn't do that, he'd still be really good. But you can understand how he's working on what he's good at during that session. ... Everything he does out there is trying to simulate how he's going to approach it.

"Even when he catches the ball on the run and flips it in. It's the same thing he does during the game. Most guys you'd say, 'Set your feet and make a good throw.' But KK does it during the game, and you see him do that in practice, so he will be able to do that in a game."

Kiermaier said he's not doing anything different from what he's done his whole life on the practice field.

"I love getting my work in out there," he said. "And you can't get a better live read off the bat than taking it in BP. And that's something I enjoy doing.

"I enjoy running around, getting my body loose. It just prepares me for the game. I feel like I'm doing myself a favor getting those live reads off the bat. When it comes game time, I can get the same reads now that I was getting three hours ago during BP. And that's what gets me locked in, and I can get all my work in during BP. I do that every day."

Kiermaier makes a lot of great catches during batting practice, but he doesn't leave his best work there.

"It's fun to watch in batting practice, but even more fun to watch during the game," Baldelli said.

Bill Chastain is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.