Wednesday, January 24, 2018
Tampa Bay Rays

Tampa Bay Rays drop struggling Desmond Jennings from first to seventh in lineup

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The good news, at least, is that LF Desmond Jennings said his previously sprained left knee isn't the problem, in fact feeling good enough that he has shed the brace he'd worn since his June 5 return.

But Jennings has been struggling, hitting .177 in his first 20 games back, so much so that manager Joe Maddon on Tuesday dropped him from his usual leadoff spot to seventh.

"He's just been off of his game," Maddon said. "I wanted to take a little pressure off of him. We did the same thing, remember, for one game in the playoffs (last year) and then he came back really well. … Just go out there and play. He's trying so hard, he can't try any harder than he is. And he still can be very productive for us from the seven hole. That's all it is — give him a different look and just see if he can get back to his normal self."

Jennings, in his first full season in the majors, said the best solution is to hit his way out of it, that sitting out won't accomplish anything. He does acknowledge that he is becoming impatient and swinging earlier in the count than usual.

"There's nothing wrong, I'm just not hitting,'' he said. "I do know I feel like I've been missing pitches I should hit. I'm struggling right now, so I'm trying to not get behind as much and I'm going up there and swinging early. … I feel like I've been getting pitched pretty good, too."

MORE STRUGGLES: With DH Luke Scott set to return as soon as Thursday, Hideki Matsui's playing time is likely to be cut dramatically. He hasn't made much a case for himself, hitting .132 (5-for-38) over his past 10 games and .164 overall.

But Maddon remains confident: "I'm not worried about him. He's going to hit his stride. He just all of a sudden is going to just turn it out and he's going to get really hot."

IMPRESSIVE ARCH: Rookie RHP Chris Archer made a good first impression in his two starts. "I think more than anything he proved to himself that he can pitch in the big leagues,'' Maddon said. "He did a great job.''

MEDICAL MATTERS: RHP Jeremy Hellickson (shoulder fatigue) felt good playing catch in the follow-up to his 60-pitch Monday bullpen session, and said he is set to return to the rotation, targeting Saturday. Maddon said that's not official yet as there is also an option to start Alex Cobb on Saturday on his normal day and push Hellickson to Sunday.

Scott (back stiffness) went 1-for-5 for Triple-A Durham in his second rehab game, with a decision forthcoming if he will play again for the Bulls tonight. Either way, he could rejoin the Rays as soon as Thursday.

RHP Kyle Farnsworth (right elbow) finally got on the mound by going to Durham after being rained out two straight days in Florida with Class A Charlotte. He started and worked one inning for the Bulls on Tuesday, striking out two and allowing a double. He is to start again tonight for Durham and could be activated Saturday.

Maddon said there was "zero" news on 3B Evan Longoria, who has been idled since a June 18 setback in his recovery from a partially torn left hamstring.

MISCELLANY: RF Ben Zobrist made a dazzling running and diving catch. … RHP Taylor Guerrieri, the 2011 top draft pick, had a second solid start for short-season A Hudson Valley on Monday, allowing one run and five hits over five innings, striking out six. … An error charged to 1B Carlos Peña in the June 19 game at Washington was changed to 3B Will Rhymes after a review. … Second-round pick SS Spencer Edwards, who signed for a reported $556,900, will join the Gulf Coast League team in Port Charlotte. … Bucs QB Josh Freeman was a guest of the Rays; he was there Monday, too.

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