CLEVELAND -- The Rays' surprise of the day came when they named their 25-man roster for the Wild Card Game and Kevin Kiermaier's name was on it.
The 23-year-old outfielder from Fort Wayne, Ind., has been named the Best Defensive Player in the Rays' Minor League system two years in a row.
Former Rays outfielder Rocco Baldelli, who now serves as a special assistant for baseball operations, said of Kiermaier: "One of the top outfielders in baseball. That includes the Major Leagues."
Kiermaier was selected by the Rays from Triple-A Durham prior to the Game 163 tiebreaker game and entered the game in the ninth inning as a defensive replacement.
After the decision was made to put Kiermaier on the roster for Wednesday night's game, Andrew Friedman, Rays executive vice president of baseball operations, said he enjoyed a laugh with everyone in the room.
"I said, 'This is crazy,'" said Friedman, noting that it was an example of "who we are."
The Rays selected Kiermaier in the 31st round of the 2010 Draft and he chose to sign with the Rays rather than go to Purdue. He recalled a conversation he later had with scouting director R.J. Harrison.
"I said, 'Even though I was a 31st-round pick, we agreed to a financial situation," Kiermaier said. "I said, 'I'm ready to play. It's not about that.' I'm just ready for an opportunity and I took it by storm. And it's been such a fun and successful three years with these guys. Now for them to call me up for the last game of the season, Game 163, and activate me for this game. I would have never thought I would have been here at the end of the year."
Rays farm director Mitch Lukevics now marvels that they were able to draft Kiermaier in the 31st round.
"It was amazing he got drafted where he did, but we're happy he did," Lukevics said. "But he's got good foot speed, he's a 4.15 runner [from home to first base]. He throws well. He has bat speed. He is an above-average runner, he has above-average skill. And he's an above-average defender. He learned that over time, but he has that raw skill ability.
"He became a good defender and we were hoping the bat would come around more. He's done everything that a Minor Leaguer could do to get better. We've had him in Australia, many instructional leagues, we've had him in the Arizona Fall League and he's been getting better and better. This year, he was our [Double-A] Montgomery Biscuits Player of the Year. Went to Durham and did well there for us, too. Now he's here."
Kiermaier called the past several days "one of the best stretches" of his life.
"This is what you play for," Kiermaier said. "To be a part of the postseason, and part of the 25-man roster, everything I say is going to be cliche, because I can't say it any other way than this is a dream come true. And I wouldn't want to be any other place right now than right here with this great group of guys trying to get a 'W' against these guys and move on. But what a crazy past 72 hours for me."
Davey Martinez, the Rays' bench coach and former Major League outfielder, chuckled about Kiermaier's situation.
"Took me 16 years to get to the playoffs," Martinez said. "Took him one day."
Maddon: Crowd shouldn't be factor for Cobb
CLEVELAND -- Just two hours southeast of Cleveland, playoff-starved Pirates fans found a way to make an impact in Pittsburgh's 6-2 win over the Reds in Tuesday's National League Wild Card Game.
The record crowd of 40,487 at PNC Park began chanting, "Cueto, Cueto," at Cincinnati right-hander Johnny Cueto in the second inning while he was facing catcher Russell Martin. Cueto dropped the ball while on the mound, much to the crowd's amusement, and the very next pitch was deposited into the seats for a solo blast by Martin.
Rays manager Joe Maddon said he's aware that Indians fans -- who haven't seen their club in the postseason since 2007 -- could pull a similar stunt against Rays starting pitcher Alex Cobb. But Maddon said he declined to bring that up with the 25-year-old right-hander before Wednesday's American League Wild Card Game at Progressive Field.
"I'm really big on not putting thoughts in a guy's head," Maddon said. "Something like that I would refrain from doing, because I don't really see the positive impact that would have with me making him aware of something that may not occur. I want to believe that if it does occur, I'd like to see a lot of smiles."
Maddon said his team has the advantage of playing in big-game atmospheres at places such as Yankee Stadium and Fenway Park during the regular season, so his team is prepared for raucous crowds come the postseason.
"When you get your players to play in those venues on a consistent basis, and it's like a playoff atmosphere in New York and Boston, I don't care what date it is," Maddon said. "So your guys are able to deal with it, and you get stronger and become immune to it in some ways."
Scott accepts decision to be left off roster
CLEVELAND -- Rays manager Joe Maddon called the decision to not include Luke Scott on the American League Wild Card Game roster the toughest decision they had to make.
Scott, who has played little down the stretch, allowed that he wasn't surprised.
"It is what it is, man," Scott said. "I haven't played much the last 7 1/2 weeks. You know when the writing's on the wall. But I'll come here and get my work in, do the best I can no matter what, and cheer my teammates on. Celebrate for them, lift them up and try to help them out. Do the best I can. ... It's difficult, but you have to make the most of it."
Scott did not show any emotion about the decision and fielded questions with grace.
"I understand this game," Scott said. "I understand the business and how it's run. ... Hopefully we win and go on to the next level and I'll just keep going out there and cheering my teammates on, and hopefully we do the best we can."
Maddon: No speech necessary before WC Game
CLEVELAND -- Joe Maddon is very routine oriented as manager of the Rays.
So Maddon said he doesn't break from the mold come playoff time, and he didn't give his team a rah-rah speech before Wednesday's American League Wild Card Game against the Indians.
"I really try not to get too smart, because I'm not," Maddon said. "When it comes to pregame speeches and all that, I would save that for football, basketball and maybe even hockey. Baseball players play this game almost every night of the year. They've been through a lot of situations. The worst thing you can do is complicate things right now. I really believe that. The best thing you can do is simplify."
Maddon said he learned his lesson during the late 1990s while a member of the Angels' coaching staff. The Angels were in contention late in the season in both '97 and '98 but faltered down the stretch, as they got away from what made them successful.
"We were kind of like knocking on the door a couple times and we sent out some extra advance scouts and had all sorts of stuff coming in," Maddon said. "It was actually the worst thing we could've done. You talk about trying to give more intel or information, but they didn't need that."
Maddon said the key is giving his players just enough information to succeed, as there's no reason to overload them in such a crucial point of the season.
"They need a nugget," Maddon said. "There's nuggets out there. You need to disburse the nuggets that might help in a tight moment in the seventh inning versus a certain hitter. Offensively speaking, the same thing, if there's one tendency, but in our game, all of this stuff we do is with our pitcher and defense, primarily. The hitter really doesn't benefit. The hitter is just reacting. The other guys are the proactive part of the game."