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Tampa Bay Rays rookie Desmond Jennings continues to get on base, spark offense

SEATTLE — Desmond Jennings figures he has a simple job description as the Rays' leadoff hitter: find a way to get on base, then get around the bases as quickly as he can.

"Any way I can get on," he said. "Any way. If it's a walk, a hit, a hit-by-pitch. Anything. Just find a way to get on. With the guys hitting behind me, there's a good chance I'm going to score."

In the first nine games since his promotion from Triple-A Durham, he has done pretty well, reaching base 19 times in 41 plate appearances for a .463 on-base percentage to go with his .333 average. Plus he has had three doubles, a triple and his first big-league homer.

"It was all right," he said. "Could have been better, but I'll take it."

Sunday, he provided a prime example in the first inning, manufacturing a run — reaching on an error, stealing second, advancing to third on an errant throw and scoring on a groundout — that provided the impetus for the Rays' 8-1 win.

"That set the whole thing up," manager Joe Maddon said.

Jennings showed his aggressiveness, and his speed, on the scoring play, breaking as soon as Evan Longoria hit the ball to third and sliding headfirst to beat Chone Figgins' throw.

Jennings said he was planning to dash home if there was a ground ball, and third-base coach Tom Foley encouraged him. "I didn't think (Figgins) was playing too close, I got a good secondary (lead), I was just anticipating a ground ball being hit somewhere and I got a good jump, a good break on it," he said.

Added Maddon: "That's all Desmond right there. … The aggressive mentality that is derived from that play kind of helps your whole group. I really liked what he did. That's who we have to be, that's how we've got to play. That was what, three runs on one hit over the last two days to that point. We have to be able to do those things to beat the better teams."

BABY STEPS: The Rays are hoping the fact that Longoria is walking a lot means that he will soon be hitting more.

Though Longoria was still hitting just .232 after a 1-for-3 Sunday, Maddon said it's "a good first step" that he has apparently reorganized his strike zone and was chasing fewer bad pitches. In 25 July games, Longoria had 20 walks and 18 hits (for a .197 average).

"What he's doing now could lead to a hot streak as opposed to what he had been doing, chasing everything and then trying to fit in a well-struck ball now and then," Maddon said. "I just think he's working better at-bats."

REHAB REPORT: RHP Juan Cruz (groin strain) came through his one-inning Saturday rehab appearance for Class A Charlotte with no problems and is expected to be activated when eligible on Tuesday.

HELLO CHARLIE: Sean Rodriguez was the first batter to see Charlie Furbush when the rookie reliever was called up by Detroit in May and drew a walk off him. Sunday, Rodriguez was the first batter Furbush faced after being traded to the Mariners, and he homered off him.

MISCELLANY: Ben Zobrist extended his hitting streak to 11 games. … The Rays won their first series since beating the Cardinals July 1-3, and on the road since at Houston June 24-26. … Durham OF Brandon Guyer may be sidelined into September due to his oblique strain.

Tampa Bay Rays rookie Desmond Jennings continues to get on base, spark offense 07/31/11 [Last modified: Sunday, July 31, 2011 11:10pm]
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