Promising youngsters Desmond Jennings, Robinson Chirinos among Tampa Bay Rays' cuts

FINDING HIS STROKE: Evan Longoria hits an RBI single in the fourth inning, one of his two hits.

EDMUND D. FOUNTAIN | Times

FINDING HIS STROKE: Evan Longoria hits an RBI single in the fourth inning, one of his two hits.

PORT CHARLOTTE — OF Desmond Jennings and C Robinson Chirinos could impact the Rays at some point this season.

But they weren't going to make the opening day roster, which is why they were among the 14 players sent to minor-league camp Tuesday as part of the largest cut of the spring.

Manager Joe Maddon said the idea is to get them more playing time to prepare for their upcoming minor-league seasons. The full list of cuts includes SS Tim Beckham, RHPs Chris Archer, Alex Cobb, Dane de la Rosa, Brandon Gomes and Dirk Hayhurst, Cs Nevin Ashley and Stephen Vogt and INFs Russ Canzler, J.J. Furmaniak and Daniel Mayora.

Those on the 40-man roster will eventually be optioned to one of the minor-league affiliates, with the rest reassigned to minor-league camp. The big-league side is down to 40.

With veteran LF Johnny Damon signed in the offseason, Jennings' time will have to wait. The Rays want Jennings to play when he's summoned, not be a reserve (except in September roster expansion). "That kind of guy you don't want to have be a utility player right now," Maddon said.

Chirinos, acquired from the Cubs in the offseason RHP Matt Garza trade, made quite an impression in camp, hitting .429 with two homers, but Maddon said he'd like the converted catcher to work on his defense and be ready in case called upon.

"He's the kind of guy that once you get here, you want him to stay and not shuttle back and forth," Maddon said.

Cobb could be next in line in Triple-A Durham if an injury hits the rotation.

ROUGH DAY: Maddon said RHP Jeremy Hellickson didn't have his "normal stuff" in Tuesday's start, when he gave up one run (a solo homer) and two walks in 12/3 innings (39 pitches). There were a few reasons why, as Maddon said Hellickson had a blister on his right ring finger. Hellickson also fell ill, the reason he was unavailable to the media afterward. But Maddon said Hellickson will be fine for his next scheduled start.

GAME DETAILS: The Rays (7-9-1) had their best offensive game of the spring, routing the Marlins 11-2 in front of 5,544 at Charlotte Sports Park. The 2-4 hitters — Damon, 3B Evan Longoria and DH Manny Ramirez — combined for six hits and seven RBIs, including a two-run homer by Ramirez. CF B.J. Upton also hit a solo shot.

"When that part of your batting order clicks, the rest of the lineup has a pretty good chance and the confidence flows," Maddon said. "I liked the way it looked today, you're going to see a lot of that this summer."

Ramirez is feeling so good, he asked to be in the lineup for today's three-hour road trip to Jupiter to play Marlins. He'll be the DH.

TROP TALK: After a brief change during last year's division series, batted balls that hit Tropicana Field's upper two catwalks are again in play. At the request of Major League Baseball, ground rules regarding the catwalks will return to those used during the regular season.

Balls hitting the A- and B-rings will be in play, meaning a ball caught by a fielder after striking one will be considered an out. In last year's playoffs, balls that hit those rings were ruled dead, with no pitch recorded.

Maddon said the change "made sense to me," understanding it'd help the umpires. "Apparently, they have all their different jobs to do when the ball is hit and the last one is to look up at a ceiling," he said.

BACK AND FORTH: Executive VP Andrew Friedman said it'd still be difficult for LHP Cesar Cabral to make the roster, a requirement as a Rule 5 acquisition from the Red Sox.

But they still claimed him off waivers Monday from the Blue Jays two days after Toronto claimed him from Tampa Bay.

"We figured we'd roll the dice and see if we can figure out a way to get creative and keep him here," Friedman said.

Promising youngsters Desmond Jennings, Robinson Chirinos among Tampa Bay Rays' cuts 03/15/11 [Last modified: Wednesday, March 16, 2011 6:04pm]

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