Thu Jun 30 3:53am ET
The Tampa Bay Rays expect the return of two players for their five-game series against the host Toronto Blue Jays that opens Thursday night.
They also will lose two pitchers.
Outfielder Kevin Kiermaier (hip inflammation) and starting pitcher Drew Rasmussen (hamstring strain) are scheduled to rejoin the active roster during the series that includes a doubleheader on Saturday.
The Rays, however, will be without relievers Brooks Raley and Ryan Thompson because of Canada's COVID-19 vaccine mandate.
Tampa Bay is coming off a 5-3 home loss to the visiting Brewers on Wednesday. The Rays were swept in the two-game set against Milwaukee after winning their three previous games.
The Rays went 1-for-12 with runners in scoring position and stranded nine runners on Wednesday.
"It's just not going to get it done," Tampa Bay manager Kevin Cash said. "We've got to find ways to give our pitchers some more runs."
The Blue Jays lost 6-5 in 10 innings to the visiting Boston Red Sox on Wednesday in the finale of a three-game series after winning the first two games.
"It's like playing a playoff game every day, that's how it feels," Blue Jays manager Charlie Montoyo said of the charged atmosphere of the series. "That's good, and it's not going to stop."
The dugouts cleared briefly during the third inning when Toronto catcher Alejandro Kirk was hit by a pitch from Boston starter Nick Pivetta.
The Blue Jays, Rays and Red Sox are closely bunched in the American League East with the New York Yankees far ahead in first place.
Kiermaier, out since June 21, played six innings and batted three times in a Florida Complex League game on Tuesday. He said a cortisone shot helped, and he expects to be reinstated from the injured list when he is eligible on Friday.
"Felt really good, was excited to get back out there," Kiermaier said. "Did my six innings, and I'm ready to be activated. I think Friday's my day, so right at the 10 days, best-case scenario. I'm a happy man."
Rasmussen, who last pitched for Tampa Bay on June 10, said that he felt good after throwing live batting practice on Saturday. He is expected to be inserted into the rotation during the series in Toronto.
The Blue Jays will send out struggling left-hander Yusei Kikuchi (2-4, 5.08 ERA) in the series opener on Thursday. The Rays had not announced a starter for the opener.
Kikuchi will be facing the Rays for the third time in his career. He was 2-0 with a 1.38 ERA in two starts against Tampa Bay when he was with the Seattle Mariners.
The Blue Jays signed right-handed reliever Sergio Romo on Wednesday and optioned right-hander Shaun Anderson to Triple-A Buffalo. Romo, 39, had been released by Seattle.
Romo, who is close with Montoyo from their time together with the Rays, had an 8.16 ERA in 17 games for the Mariners this season. He missed a month this year due to right shoulder inflammation. In his 15-year career, Romo has gone 42-35 (3.20 ERA) with 137 saves.
Romo warmed up late in the Wednesday game but was not used.
"I come in here fearless, happy and appreciative, so let's go," Romo said.
Montoyo added, "Well, you know he's not going to be nervous in any situation. We know that for sure."
--Field Level Media