KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Now that the Rays have decided Desmond Jennings is ready, they are going to give him the chance to show it, with plans to play him in leftfield and bat him leadoff.
The move was not the precursor to the team making a trade, manager Joe Maddon said.
"It's Desmond earning an opportunity to be here, period,'' Maddon said after Friday's loss to the Royals. "And hopefully he's going to be somewhat of a catalyst offensively.''
Reid Brignac, whose potential to take over at shortstop was why the club felt comfortable trading Jason Bartlett in the offseason, was sent to Triple-A Durham after hitting .193 in 68 games.
"Reid Brignac, no question, is a major-league-caliber shortstop defensively,'' Maddon said. "But moving down the road, we have to get him better on the offensive side of the ball."
With Brignac gone, Sean Rodriguez (who started unexpectedly Friday) and Elliot Johnson will share time at short.
Jennings, 24, was hitting .275 with 12 homers and 39 RBIs in 89 games for Durham. Sam Fuld and Justin Ruggiano will be reduced to limited duty.
SIX PACK: The Rays will stick with an unconventional six-man rotation at least into August.
Maddon said it was primarily a matter of necessity, as they need to not only limit the innings that rookie RHP Jeremy Hellickson throws in his first full big-league season (110⅔ thus far), but also because they are growing concerned at the amount that top starters RHP James Shields (156⅓) and LHP David Price (142⅓) are logging. Maddon said it's also a matter of opportunity, as the emergence of rookie RHP Alex Cobb (2-0, 3.09 in six starts) as a dependable starter provided an attractive option.
The Rays will manipulate when they use Shields and Price to maximize their starts against the Red Sox, Yankees and other tougher teams, trying to keep them from getting too far over 200 innings. They would like to keep Hellickson, who had some minor arm issues in the minors, to 170-180 innings.
The drawback to using six starters is carrying only six relievers, but Maddon pointed to how little work RHP Andy Sonnanstine got when he was the seventh, and he said they can rotate in relievers from Triple A if they need fresh arms.
DOWN AND OUT: Bullpen coach Bobby Ramos stayed in St. Petersburg for further medical tests, having been sidelined on and off for six weeks with throat issues. Maddon said traveling makes Ramos' condition worse but added that the issue is not considered serious. Stan Boroski, assistant to the pitching coach, has taken over bullpen duties.
MINOR MATTERS: Top pitching prospect LHP Matt Moore made an impressive Triple A debut for Durham, allowing one run on three hits with seven strikeouts and two walks over five innings against Toledo (Tigers). He allowed a fourth-inning homer and threw 89 pitches, 52 for strikes.
TRADE WINDS: Shields continues to generate trade interest, even from the unlikeliest places. According to ESPN's Buster Olney, the Yankees called about Shields "and were told he is not available — presumably to (them and the Red Sox)."