Wednesday, May 23, 2018
Tampa Bay Rays

Jennings part of improved health report for Rays

PORT CHARLOTTE — The Rays are set to at least open spring training in good health.

A back issue sidelining minor-league C Justin O'Conner is the only thing keeping the Rays from a clean medical report for Sunday's first workout, baseball operations president Matt Silverman said.

That includes OF Desmond Jennings, who has lost weight to help his legs after being limited to 28 games last season (and missing time in 2014) primarily due to left knee issues.

"Desmond is in a good spot," manager Kevin Cash said. "He's being smart about the workload and his legs. He seems very eager to come in (to camp)."

Silverman added: "He's incredibly talented. When he's on the field, he's got the chance to be the best player on the field. We see him healthy. … He should be full-go this year and add a dynamic element to our lineup and to our outfield."

And that includes starters Matt Moore (elbow) and Drew Smyly (shoulder), who both returned strong at end of last season and will enter camp with no restrictions.

Silverman acknowledged there will be discussions with the medical staff about plans to manage their workload, more so with Smyly. "We're always cautious with our pitchers," he said. "We're cognizant of injury prevention and making sure we don't tax them. But both guys are full-go."

Five pitchers are recovering from Tommy John elbow surgery: Alex Cobb, Chase Whitley, and non-roster invitees Kyle McPherson, Neil Wagner and Jonny Venters.

WEBB GEM: Having been born and raised in Clearwater and starring at Clearwater Central Catholic, RHP Ryan Webb used Twitter to share his joy over joining his local team:

"Words can't express my excitement for the opportunity to play on my hometown #Rays!! Can't wait to #RaysUp and bring a championship home!!"

The Rays were happy to have Webb after finalizing a one-year deal for $1 million plus incentives, especially given his proclivity to get ground balls.

"It's going to add to helping our bullpen," Cash said. "There's plenty of nights we're sitting there in the dugout like, "We could really use a double play ball here right now." We got them sometimes, but to know that's kind of his specialty coming in helps."

Webb, 30, spent most of last season with the Indians, going 1-0, 3.20 in 40 games, with a 3.65 groundball-to-flyball ratio that was fifth highest among AL relievers. He pitched previously with the Padres, Marlins and Orioles, compiling a 3.35 ERA in 357 big-league games.

RHP Chase Whitley, a waiver claim from the Yankees recovering from May 2015 Tommy John elbow surgery, was moved to the 60-day DL to make room for Webb on the 40-man roster.

LONEY ALERT: Though 1B James Loney seems to be without a job after the additions of Steve Pearce and Logan Morrison to play first and Corey Dickerson to DH, Silverman said they did not "need" to make any moves. But then he kind of said they did.

"There certainly is a bit of a logjam on the roster, and we probably have one too many guys if the season started today," he said. "But we have seven weeks to go before opening day. A lot takes place, both with us and throughout the industry."

MISCELLANY: With O'Conner sidelined at least at the start of camp due to a back discomfort, C Mayo Acosta, who had re-signed on a minor-league deal, will report to big-league camp. … VP Rick Vaughn said there was still no official word on the planned March 21-22 exhibition trip to Cuba. … There will be promotions at five spring games: a camo tank top giveaway March 6, retro lunch box March 15, an etch-a-sketch March 18, Jake Odorizzi bobblehead March 19 and DJ Kitty drawstring bag March 27.

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