Jennings showing his importance to Rays' lineup

Outfielder added two more hits to bring spring average to .667

Jennings showing his importance to Rays' lineup

TAMPA, Fla. -- In the bottom of the second inning at George M. Steinbrenner Field on Monday, Rays left fielder Desmond Jennings dropped a fly ball hit by Chase Headley. That led to an unearned run in a game Tampa Bay lost, 4-3.

Kevin Cash was able to shrug it off, however. For one thing, it's still the Grapefruit League. For another, Jennings had two more hits to raise his spring batting average to .667.

"I didn't even see the play, the way this field and dugout are aligned," said Cash. "I asked him if he was alright. I couldn't tell if he hit the wall or what. He said he just missed it. He looks good at the plate, though. He looks really good at the plate."

In 2014, Jennings led off 70 times, more than any other Rays player. But his importance to the lineup could dictate that he move down in the order.

"He's big. There is no doubt about it," Cash said. "We've talked about Desmond quite a bit, trying to put him in some run-scoring opportunities and let him be a force for driving in runs. And then once he gets on base, do what he does. He'll be a huge factor for us when we break here.

"I think sometimes guys get clumped into that leadoff role because he is fast, he plays outfield. Desmond has got some thump. We want to free him up. I think the goal is, 'Let's not put any pressure on you doing something, taking pitches, getting on base. Just go hit.' And I think we're going to see a very productive Desmond Jennings."

Jennings has only played four games, but so far that approach has clearly been working.

Paul Hagen is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.