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Tampa Bay Rays' Desmond Jennings hits three homers in spring game

SARASOTA — Riding the exercise bike in the clubhouse after a sharp tuneup for Friday's season opener, Rays ace James Shields joked about a simple request: that the reporters gathered around Desmond Jennings remember to at least mention his outing.

Jennings certainly was the headliner after hitting three home runs in Sunday's 8-5 exhibition win over the Orioles, the first player in Rays history to go deep three times in a spring game and the first big-leaguer since Pittsburgh's Craig Monroe in 2009.

"I felt good," Jennings said.

Better had they counted, of course, but Jennings, who started playing regularly again last week after sitting out several days due to a sore shoulder, is pleased with his progress. He had solo shots in the third (over the leftfield pavilion) and seventh and a grand slam in the fourth.

"The thing is, it felt good," Jennings said. "I was seeing the ball good, I was swinging at pitches in the zone and hitting them on the barrel, and I was getting to pitches inside. That's a good sign for me. So hopefully I can keep that up."

Overall, the Rays are showing some signs of life offensively, scoring seven Saturday (with their first three-homer game) then beating the Orioles, with Evan Longoria also going deep.

"It's been better," manager Joe Maddon said. "You want to build to the crescendo toward the beginning of the season."

SHIELDS SET: Yes, Shields was sharp over his four innings, allowing two hits (one homer), walking one and striking out six while throwing 60 pitches. With a Friday date with the Yankees looming, and a 3-0, 2.08 spring behind him, he said he couldn't be more ready.

"I had a pretty good spring, I feel good, everything's right in line to start the season off," he said.

Said Maddon: "I cannot even ask for anything other than how he's looked this spring."

MEDICAL MATTERS: RHPs Fernando Rodney (forearm bruise) and Jeff Niemann (middle finger blister) both looked good in bullpen sessions in Port Charlotte, pitching coach Jim Hickey said, and are set to return to game action.

Rodney, struck by a line drive Wednesday, will pitch Tuesday. Niemann, scratched from Saturday's start, will throw in Wednesday's exhibition at Tropicana Field, as will LHP Matt Moore.

OF Sam Fuld sees wrist specialist Dr. Thomas Graham in Cleveland today, expecting to have surgery Tuesday with a plan to return later this season.

MINOR MATTERS: Rosters for the four full-season affiliates were released (and are posted on tampabay.com/blogs/rays). Among the more well-known prospects: INF Tim Beckham and RHPs Alex Cobb and Chris Archer at Triple-A Durham; SS Hak-Ju Lee and RHP Alex Colome at Double-A Montgomery; OF Mikie Mahtook and LHPs Enny Romero and Grayson Garvin at advanced Class A Charlotte; and INFs Ryan Brett, Tyler Goeddel and Jake Hager at Class A Bowling Green.

Their last two top draft picks, OF Josh Sale and RHP Taylor Guerrieri, will remain in extended spring training.

GAME DETAILS: The Rays improved to 9-16-5 with the 8-5 win. … Sean Rodriguez started at shortstop and Reid Brignac at second, but Maddon said no decisions have been made on playing time, nor on the batting order. … He did acknowledge that with Jennings in center, Matt Joyce is most likely to play left and Ben Zobrist right.

Tampa Bay Rays' Desmond Jennings hits three homers in spring game 04/01/12 [Last modified: Monday, April 2, 2012 3:55pm]
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