ST. PETERSBURG — OF Desmond Jennings is slated to return to the Rays lineup on Friday.
Sidelined since April with a left knee issue that required arthroscopic surgery, Jennings played Tuesday for advanced Class A Charlotte, going 1-for-3 with a walk while spending nine innings in leftfield, and is scheduled for one final rehab game tonight.
Jennings already went through a seven-game rehab assignment with Triple-A Durham (going 3-for-21 with four walks), but the extra time serves two purposes: for him to play a full game in the field; and for his return to come on grass in Texas on Friday rather than on the Trop's artificial turf.
LHP Drew Smyly is also poised to rejoin the Rays shortly, and is lined up to start as soon as Sunday in Texas. But the Rays will have to decide if he is ready after he got through only four innings on 94 pitches Tuesday for Durham, allowing three runs (two earned) on four hits and two walks while striking out five.
The Rays are likely to wait and see how Smyly, out since May with shoulder issues including a torn labrum, feels today and after a bullpen session Thursday. They will need a fifth starter by Tuesday in Houston.
NO LAUGHING MATTER: Stone Crabs RHP Chih-Wei Hu, acquired from Minnesota in the RHP Kevin Jepsen trade, will miss at least one start after cutting his left hand in what the team said was a blender accident. Seriously.
ALEX IN THE HOUSE: RHP Alex Cobb took a break from his Tommy John elbow surgery rehab in Arizona to make a quick visit. Cobb said all is going well with his rehab — though he's still 1½-2 months from starting to throw — and he expects to be pitching for the Rays around this time year.
"I fully anticipate being healthy, good to go, bigger, better, stronger by — I don't want to put a target date on it — but hopefully mid to late August at least. And hopefully it will be a smooth transition. I want to make sure I'm fully back."
Cobb chose to rehab at a facility in Arizona that provides more individualized attention, working out five days a week and rehabbing three.
INSIDE JOB: Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez was not happy when Eury Perez was called out for interference for running inside the baseline to first, as he was hit by the throw. "It's one of the worst rules in the rulebook," he said. "The closer you get — the runner's got to stay in the 45-foot box there — you've got to come back in and touch the base. There's no other way possible unless you play girls softball with the double bases."
MISCELLANY: LHP Xavier Cedeno picked up his second career save, first since June 8, 2012, with Houston. … The Rays have homered in nine straight games, their longest such streak since a team-record 17 in April-May 2013. … C Curt Casali returned to the lineup, having sat out Sunday after leaving Saturday's game after being struck on the side of the head by a swing. … At 2:02, it was the Rays' shortest game since a team-record 1:53 on Aug. 9, 2011, vs. Kansas City. … Todd Kalas is in the TV booth this series, filling in for analyst Brian Anderson.