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Desmond Jennings has nice night in Tampa Bay Rays' win over Boston Red Sox

ST. PETERSBURG — Manager Joe Maddon said part of the reason he recently dropped struggling OF Desmond Jennings from his usual leadoff spot to near the bottom of the batting order was to take some pressure off him.

"Hitting leadoff, you're trying to stir the drink," Maddon said.

And hitting seventh, Jennings set the table in Saturday's 5-3 victory over the Red Sox, playing a pivotal role by playing to his strengths.

Jennings singled and scored in the third and added two sacrifice bunts that led to two runs.

"All of that I thought was fabulous," Maddon said. "That's the kind of game he needs to play. He's got power; he's going to hit 15 home runs on an annual basis, maybe even more at some point. But this other component of the game is within his abilities, and he needs to play to take advantage of his speed."

Maddon had wanted Jennings, who was hitting .161 in his past 20 games at leadoff, to reorganize his strike zone and believed moving him down would help by giving him a different mind-set.

"I try to go out and play no matter where I'm at," Jennings said. "It's different. But it's still the same game, just a different spot."

Maddon said Jennings will eventually get back to leadoff. "I loved what he did (Saturday)," Maddon said.

getting closer: OF Matt Joyce will begin a rehabilitation assignment with Class A Charlotte today, and he could rejoin the Rays on Wednesday.

Joyce headed to Daytona Beach to join the Stone Crabs and was scheduled to play today, Monday and Tuesday before getting re-evaluated.

Joyce has been out since mid June, sidelined first with a mild oblique strain, then with a lower back strain sustained during a July 4 rehab appearance.

Meanwhile, OF Sam Fuld (right wrist surgery) has been moved up to Triple-A Durham after going 2-for-13 in five games with Charlotte and will play seven innings in the outfield Monday for the Bulls.

"The biggest thing for him is that he doesn't feel like his timing is very good at the plate right yet," Maddon said. "But he's feeling physically really good, so that's all going well."

DH/OF Hideki Matsui (left hamstring tightness) is also making progress. Maddon said he is running well enough that he could serve as a DH without the need for a pinch-runner.

close call: C Jose Lobaton helped thwart a potential Red Sox rally in the eighth when he juggled and then caught a popup bunt by 2B Pedro Ciriaco. With the Rays up one, CF Jacoby Ellsbury on second and no outs, Ciriaco's bunt went about 12 feet in the air. Lobaton said he "missed it" at first but grabbed the ball with his bare right hand and trapped it against his chest. "I was like, 'Oh, thank you God,' " he said.

tag team: 2B/RF Ben Zobrist and C Jose Molina teamed up for the defensive play of the day. With the bases loaded and one out in the fifth, Zobrist made a one-hop throw on a potential sacrifice fly, and Molina blocked the plate to get ex-Ray C Kelly Shoppach. "It couldn't have been any better," LHP David Price said.

MISCELLANY: 3B Evan Longoria (partially torn left hamstring) went through an extensive on-field workout before the game, including hitting, fielding and running. The Rays did infield practice pregame. … RHP Fernando Rodney and INF Brooks Conrad will sign autographs along the rightfield line from 12:15 p.m. to 12:45 p.m. today. … Zobrist was the team's winner of the Major League Baseball Players Alumni Association's Heart and Hustle Award. … OF Josh Sale, the Rays' 2010 first-round draft pick who hasn't played for Class A Bowling Green since July 5 due to a left ankle sprain, was expected to return today.

Desmond Jennings has nice night in Tampa Bay Rays' win over Boston Red Sox 07/14/12 [Last modified: Sunday, July 15, 2012 12:33am]
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