January 31, 2023

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The Sports Fanatics

Blue Jays plunk Rays’ Kevin Kiermaier over swiped data card after saying controversy was ‘under the bridge’

The AL East-rival Tampa Bay Rays and Toronto Blue Jays wrapped up a three-game series at Tropicana Field on Wednesday, and the clash between contenders — and the entire series — was spiced up by some haphazard espionage. 

In the sixth inning of eventual Rays’ win on Monday, Tampa Bay outfielder Kevin Kiermaier slid into home plate, and during the action at the plate a data card with, in part, info on how Jays pitchers would attack Rays hitters apparently fell out of catcher Alejandro Kirk’s pocket. Kiermaier retrieved the card and kept it. 

The Jays were originally said to be “not happy” that Kiermaier picked up and kept the card. Yet Tuesday’s game came and went without incident. Following that game, Blue Jays manager Charlie Montoyo called the matter “agua under the bridge.” (It should be noted Montoyo served as Cash’s bench coach with the Rays from 2015-18.) Wednesday’s game was mostly event-free, too, until the bottom of the eighth inning. 

That’s when Jays reliever Ryan Borucki plunked Kiermaier with a pitch, causing the benches to empty:

Borucki was ejected from the game, a 7-1 Rays win that saw Tampa clinch a postseason berth. Wednesday’s game was the last scheduled meeting of the two teams in the regular season, but it’s possible the Rays and Blue Jays could meet up again in the postseason. The weird, card-related drama could follow.

“I hope we play those guys, I really do. I hope we play them,” Kiermaier told reporters, including MLB.com. The outfielder also called the plunking a “weak move.”

According to Kiermaier, he initially thought Monday that it might have been his positioning card for the outfield that he keeps in his pocket, but once he realized it wasn’t that, he declined to hand it over to someone else in the Rays dugout.

Sportsnet reporter Arash Madani tweeted out Kiermaier’s somewhat rambling response when asked about what happened on Tuesday: 

Former Marlins president David Samson broke down the Rays-Jays drama on Wednesday’s Nothing Personal with David Samson. Listen below:

As Madani and Shi Davidi of SportsNet later reported, the Jays dispatched a bat boy to the Tampa Bay dugout to ask for the card to be returned, but the request was declined, albeit in what seemed to be a joking manner. That refusal to return the card, which very likely provided the Rays with actionable insights into the Jays’ approach against them, is probably what stuck in Toronto’s craw. Whether you think Kiermaier and the Rays are out of bounds on this likely hinges on whether you think the Jays’ data card is fair game once it falls out of the catcher’s pocket.