Desmond Jennings travels with Tampa Bay Rays despite knee sprain

The Rays said Monday an MRI exam on LF Desmond Jennings revealed a left knee sprain, and he'll be monitored daily.

The good news for Tampa Bay is that Jennings isn't going on the disabled list — at least for now — and he traveled with the team on its eight-game, three-city road trip that starts in New York tonight.

Jennings left Sunday's game in the second inning with what the team described as "left knee soreness."

Manager Joe Maddon had said he thought the injury occurred on Jennings' first-inning head-first slide home, when the speedy leadoff man scored on a sacrifice fly.

Maddon said if Jennings can't play tonight, more than likely it'll be Matt Joyce in left, B.J. Upton in center and Ben Zobrist in right.

TOUGH TASK: The Rays have maintained a lead over the Yankees since their season-opening sweep at Tropicana Field but head into the series in New York wary of the task they face.

"They have good pitching, they have one of the best lineups in all of baseball," DH Luke Scott said. "They are a very good team. That's how we look at them. We respect our opponent, but we're also a very good team."

The Rays (19-10) spent the past few weeks facing every team in the American League West. RHP James Shields said it'll be nice to get back into "familiar territory" with this trip featuring three AL East foes, including a Baltimore team that entered Monday with the best record in the majors.

"You look at Toronto, that's a first-place team in any other division, Yankees are a first-place team, Boston, too," Scott said. "You've got five just dominant teams. There's no breaks."

STRONG SHIELDS: Shields, who allowed six runs in a no-decision opening day against the Yankees, has won every start since, carrying a major league-leading five wins into tonight's start.

"Obviously you can tweak a few things here and there, but for the most part I'm feeling really good right now," Shields said. "I've had some pretty decent bullpen sessions, and I've just got to keep rolling."

NO SLOUCH: While the absence of legendary Yankees closer Mariano Rivera, out with a torn ACL, leaves a significant void, the Rays say RHP David Robertson is a formidable fill-in.

Robertson, an All-Star last season, has not given up a run in 27 consecutive appearances dating to Aug. 29.

"I know from facing him, he's not a fun at-bat," Scott said. "He's got really good stuff. And he's got the longest stride of any pitcher in baseball. So when you see 94-96 (mph) on the gun, it's more like 98-100."

ON THE MOVE: Scott is working back into potentially being able to play in the field, saying he's 10-12 days into a throwing program as he attempts to strengthen his surgically repaired right shoulder.

"I can play first base right now," Scott said. "I can probably get the ball into the cutoff man now, but I want to be able to put a little bit on it, where I can hold guys to a single."

Joe Smith can be reached at joesmith@tampabay.com.

Desmond Jennings travels with Tampa Bay Rays despite knee sprain 05/07/12 [Last modified: Monday, May 7, 2012 9:58pm]

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