Kiermaier finds Coors Field to his liking

Kiermaier finds Coors Field to his liking

DENVER -- Cavernous Coors Field is one of the more daunting destinations for outfielders, but Kevin Kiermaier welcomes the challenge.

Kiermaier made quite a showing in his first start at altitude on Monday, hauling in a line drive from DJ LeMahieu in the third inning and tagging up Charlie Blackmon for an 8-3 double play. LeMahieu laced a shot into the gap in right-center that Kiermaier thought would drop, but he had to adjust due to what he described to be the ball's baffling behavior.

"I think I got exposed last night," said Kiermaier, who fielded the liner as though he were a wide receiver. "The ball, it's just something like I've never seen before. Line drives carry, fly balls carry, and the ball that LeMahieu hit was a perfect example. I was getting ready to peel off and just get a one-hop, and I realized it was still carrying, and it came in. I thought I was going to catch it around my knees, and it came up and hit my hand and my sternum [and went] back in my glove. That's just a small example of what the ball does here."

The Rays' defensive specialist is widely considered by his peers to be among the best outfielders in the game -- particularly for his ability to cover ground at a rapid rate. Naturally, he finds Coors Field to be a haven of sorts.

"I like big outfields. I like having a lot of room to roam around," he said. "I think the way you've got to play here is just a little bit deeper, just a few steps deeper than what we'd normally play.

"It's just one of those things where, at [Tropicana Field] and all over the East Coast, if you hit it good, you just hope those outfielders don't make a play. But it's just pretty remarkable watching how the ball carries here and everything. I think you just have to take in how the ball carries here and with the big gaps, you have to really trust your routes and know that you have to cover a lot of ground. For a guy like me, I love it."

Kiermaier, who returned to the Rays on Friday after missing nearly two months with a fractured left hand, said that his sternum was sore on Tuesday after being pummeled by the liner, but nothing significant enough to keep him out.

"Everyone was laughing after that, just because it was a very unorthodox play," he said. "Trust me, I didn't try catching the ball off my chest to catch it, but this is my first time playing here."

Daniel Kramer is a reporter for MLB.com based in Denver and covered the Rays on Tuesday. Follow him on Twitter at @DKramer_. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.