Jennings ready to put injury-plagued '15 behind him
Outfielder, who played 28 games last year, feels healthy and optimistic
By Michael Kolligian
Special to MLB.com |
PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. -- With the high-octane potential of the numerous hitters the Rays acquired this winter to bolster their offense, the biggest addition to their lineup may prove to be a very familiar face: Desmond Jennings
The 29-year-old outfielder and his five-tool skill set arrived at Rays camp on Wednesday, along with a renewed enthusiasm for the game he loves.
"I feel good. I'm excited to actually participate in baseball again. Just looking forward to having some fun and playing," said a visibly upbeat Jennings, who was limited to 28 games last year after battling a left knee injury that eventually required surgery.
"I gave it some time, just rested it, got back to my training and everything's been good."
Jennings, who appeared to be in superb shape as he met with reporters outside the Rays clubhouse, modified his winter workout routine as a result of the injury.
"I did more running this offseason, wanted to try to lose a little weight, try to get back down, see if that helps and we'll go from there."
Jennings missed the last month of the 2014 season with knee woes as well, and he believes that a slimmer physique will help him stay healthy and avoid the disappointment he experienced last season.
"For it to end without me playing the year before, and then for it to end like it did last year, is very frustrating. It's hard to stay positive when you go through stuff like that, and I probably didn't last year," he conceded.
"I was frustrated with a lot of things. I was frustrated with myself, frustrated with everything and with just being hurt."
Predictably, one of the warmest welcomes Jennings received upon his arrival at camp was from Rays manager Kevin Cash who, along with president of baseball operations Matt Silverman, believes that his talented left fielder has the potential to be the best player on the field whenever he's in the lineup.
"He adds to our defense. We can separate him and [Kevin Kiermaier] a little bit and know that the coverage is going to be there. And offensively? The speed, the power … it can do a lot for us," said Cash, who plans to implement a sustainable, season-long playing strategy for his middle-of-the-order slugger.
"I'm looking forward to talking with Desmond, getting him in here and deciding what's best for him going forward and how we can map out a good routine for him. He's still a guy who hasn't played a lot of baseball recently."
And while Jennings will be doing regular, in-season training to maintain the health of his knee, which he has worked so hard on, he prefers to compartmentalize his recent injury issues and focus on competing.
"I'm not thinking about it now. I'm just ready to get back on the field and start playing baseball again," said Jennings of his new mindset. "I play the game because it's fun and because I'm competitive and want to win."
Michael Kolligian is a contributor to MLB. com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.