Tag:Desmond Jennings
Posted on: April 8, 2011 6:11 pm
Edited on: April 8, 2011 6:14 pm

What do Rays go sans Manny Ramirez?


By Evan Brunell

So how are the Rays going to move on from their short Manny Ramirez era?

Well, at least in the outset, Tampa Bay is calling up first baseman Casey Kotchman to be the starting first baseman while Dan Johnson will shift to DH. Kotchman was a former starting first baseman for the Angels and Braves before his career went into a tailspin with the Red Sox and Mariners.

He signed a minor-league contract with the Rays to open 2011 and reported to Triple-A despite putting up strong spring training numbers. The 28-year-old's best days are probably behind him, although Tampa will obviously cross their fingers and hope for the best. He is a solid fielder, so can help the Rays in that department.

However, Dan Johnson moving to DH is hardly inspired, even if it's the right move. Johnson has a few big hits with the Rays over the last few years, but struggles to crack the Mendoza Line and the jury is still out on whether he can be a viable starter. The Rays have really stretched themselves thin with Ramirez's retirement and certainly have to be thinking about out-of-organization alternatives. The team will likely give its in-house alternatives every chance to succeed, however, given the team's finances. But if Tampa stays solely in-house if its options aren't performing to par, it will be a mistake. While Tampa was thought to have been far behind the curve to make the postseason, Boston's 0-6 start to the season has really opened the door.

In the meantime, Kotchman and Johnson are the guys, but don't be surprised to see backup catcher Kelly Shoppach worked in at first base more regularly. Matt Joyce also stands to benefit from the retirement, and playing time should be much easier to come by for Sean Rodriguez once Evan Longoria returns from the disabled list.

The team also has a top outfield prospect in Desmond Jennings that they farmed out to Triple-A for additional seasoning. This move may cause the Rays to dip down and promote Jennings sooner rather than later.

Whether with or without Jennings, Ramirez's retirement could cause the Rays to move Johnny Damon out of left field, where he no longer belongs. Damon DHing would free the outfield up for either Joyce or Jennings.

Yes, the Rays are scrambling a bit to replace Ramirez. However, Ramirez looked as slow and old with Tampa as he did during his stint with the White Sox to finish out 2010. It really won't be that difficult to replace that Manny Ramirez, even if we all look at him as the home-run slugging behemoth that was feared for almost two decades.

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Posted on: February 1, 2011 11:23 am

Red Sox G.M. says don't sleep on Rays

Theo Epstein The Red Sox had a "town hall" with fans last night on NESN, and there was a whole lot of Sox talk -- but one of the things I found interesting (or at least more interesting than the on-going Red Sox-Yankees banter) was general manager Theo Epstein's opinion on the Rays via the St. Petersburg Times):
"I think the demise of the Rays is greatly exaggerated. Even before those moves we never erased them at all from our radar. I think they’re uniquely positioned to lose some really good players and keep their status as one of the best teams in baseball, given the strength of their farm system and the players they have ready to step in. They lose [Matt] Garza, they have [Jeremy] Hellickson to step in. They lose [Carl] Crawford they have [Desmond] Jennings and [Matt] Joyce to step in. They're going to be real tough.''
I'm not sure the Rays are the class of the American League East, but it would be important to note that they're not going to revert to the Devil Rays just because Crawford is gone.

-- C. Trent Rosecrans

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Posted on: December 26, 2010 2:57 pm

Joyce penciled into left field, Jennings in farm

JoyceAlthough the Rays have a top left field prospect that could replace Carl Crawford, the club will likely go with Matt Joyce in left to open the year as Mark Topkin of the St. Petersburg Times reports.

Joyce, acquired in a deal for Edwin Jackson from the Tigers two seasons ago, cranked 10 home runs in just 261 plate appearances for the Rays with a .241/.360/.477 line.  Joyce has good power potential and could help replace the void in the middle of the lineup left by Crawford and Carlos Pena.

While Joyce can play right field, the team is envisioning Ben Zobrist manning that position and making Jennings work for a spot on the big-league roster. It's possible (if not outright likely) the club will keep Jennings down until the early summer, ensuring he won't qualify for arbitration as a Super Two player.

Given the team has yet to find a solution at first base, it remains possible that Jennings could open the year with the club in left, Joyce in right and Zobrist manning first with Dan Johnson coming off the bench. Tampa also needs to find a DH and continue rebuilding their bullpen.

Most teams are done shopping and are now turning their attention to arbitration-eligible players, but the Rays still have plenty of work ahead of them.

-- Evan Brunell

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Posted on: November 8, 2010 5:00 pm

Top 10 Rays prospects has Hellickson at top

Hellickson Baseball America has revealed the top prospects for the Blue Jays, Orioles and Red Sox thus far. The AL East continues on with the Rays released Monday.

Tampa Bay plans to slash payroll from $72 million to $60 million or lower, and will have to rely on the farm to do that. Fortunately, a rich farm system gives the Rays options, including ace prospect Jeremy Hellickson.

Hellickson (pictured) made his major-league debut in 2010, posting a 3.47 ERA in four starts and six relief appearances at age 23 after dominating Triple-A. His presence will allow Tampa to trade one of its more expensive starters (James Shields?) for a bat, as the offense will have to be remade.

Outfielder Desmond Jennings appears to be the heir to Carl Crawford in left field, although Jennings won't have as much an impact as Hellickson will -- at least not immediately. Jennings, the 2009 top prospect that slipped to third in the rankings this year, didn't impress in a September callup by hitting .190 and the 23-year-old most decidedly did not dominate Triple-A with a line of .278/.362/.393.

Sandwiched between Hellickson and Jennings is lefty Matt Moore, who tore apart high-Class A and is a potential future ace. The 21-year-old should spend all of 2011 at Double-A.

The list:
1. Jeremy Hellickson, rhp
2. Matt Moore, lhp
3. Desmond Jennings, of
4. Jake McGee, lhp
5. Josh Sale, of
6. Alex Torres, lhp
7. Alex Colome, rhp
8. Justin O'Conner, c
9. Drew Vettleson, of
10. Jake Thompson, rhp

-- Evan Brunell

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Posted on: September 23, 2010 11:03 pm

Vazquez joins plunkers' club

Javier Vazquez
It's not a club you'd really want to be a part of, but hey, at least it's exclusive.

Yankees right-hander Javier Vazquez tied a major-league record Thursday by hitting three consecutive batters, plunking Tampa Bay's Desmond Jennings, Willy Aybar and Kelly Shoppach in order in the seventh inning.

It made him the seventh member (and just the fifth since 1900) of the Nuke LaLoosh Society, and one was quick to welcome him with punch and cookies. Journeyman C.J. Nitkowski, now playing in Korea, wrote "Wecome aboard Javy!" on his Twitter page.

Vazquez does meet one of the apparent modern-day requirements of membership in the club, which is having played with Nitkowski. The two were teammates on the Yankees in 2004. Nitkowski also played with Steve Sparks and Jeff Weaver. Dock Ellis, Pink Hawley, Wilbur Wood and Walter Thornton all were before Nitkowski's time.

Of course, it would be tough to find someone from his era who did not share a clubhouse at some point with Nitkowski. He played at the major-league level with eight organizations and was in three others.

Vazquez's struggles could land him another historic footnote: making $11.5 million this season, he might well go down as the highest-salaried healthy player ever to be left off his team's playoff roster.

-- David Andriesen

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Posted on: September 7, 2010 1:17 pm
Edited on: October 19, 2010 12:05 pm

Rays test their bench

Joe Maddon How about this for a record you didn't know existed?

Monday night the Rays tied a major-league record by using six pinch hitters in one inning. It was the ninth time that's happened -- and the seventh in September, when rosters expand.

Joe Maddon did it in the seventh inning of Monday's game in Boston because his team was being blown out and wanted to give his regulars some rest and get his bench players some at-bats.

"They all looked good up there. We like our depth, we like our bench," Maddon told the St. Petersburg Times ' Marc Topkin . "I want to keep them sharp, I've got to get them out there. Hopefully as we proceed and hopefully make the playoffs we're going to have to make a lot of tough decisions regarding who those 25 people are going to be, so these guys have got to play. If they're going to contribute the rest of this month they just can't sit on the bench."

How'd it work? Well enough for six pinch hitters to get to bat -- as well as three starters -- who accounted for two of the three outs. None of the starters got a hit, with Carlos Pena walking. The pinch hitters went 3 for 4 with two walks, scoring all three runs in the inning.

Here's how it went down:

The Red Sox started the inning with Robert Coello replacing starter Jon Lester.

Dan Johnson, batting for Ben Zobrist, singled to center.

Kelly Shoppach flied out to center.

Matt Joyce, batting for B.J. Upton, singled to right.

Willy Aybar, batting for Jason Bartlett, singled to center, loading the bases.

Brad Hawpe, batting for Carl Crawford, walked, scoring a run.

Desmond Jennings, batting for Evan Longoria, walked, scoring a run.

The Red Sox pulled Coello and put in Dustin Richardson.

Carlos Pena walked, scoring a run.

Out goes Richardson, in comes Scott Atchison.

Reid Brignac, batting for Sean Rodrgiuez, pops out to first.

Rico Baldelli flied out to end the inning.

The last team to use six pinch hitters in an inning was the Mariners in 2007 and the last two do it in a non-September game was the Expos in May of 1970.

-- C. Trent Rosecrans

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The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com