ST. PETERSBURG -- Desmond Jennings has been struggling at the plate, so Rays manager Joe Maddon has moved him from the leadoff spot the past two games. Jennings hit eighth on Friday and seventh on Saturday against the Red Sox.
Maddon talked to Jennings and explained to him his rationale for moving him out of the top spot.
"My biggest thing with Desmond, I want him to understand I wanted to move him down just to take some pressure off him," Maddon said. "And also permit him to work on certain things that are going to get him back to being the premier leadoff hitter that he is.
"He had a tough month of June. I know he has a lot of high standards set for himself, a lot of expectations set for himself. I thought by moving him back by taking some of the pressure off him would give him some time to work, primarily on reorganizing his strike zone. Being a better decision maker at the plate -- that's the primary reason."
Jennings has hit in the leadoff spot in 52 of his 59 starts this season. He is batting .161 in his last 20 games in the leadoff spot.
Maddon was asked why hitting seventh enables Jennings to work on his hitting rather than simply having him take off a few days.
"Hitting leadoff, you're trying to stir the drink at that particular spot in the batting order," Maddon said. "In the seventh hole, you don't feel that same kind of pressure, for lack of a better word, setting the table for your two, three, four, five hitters. So by being to the bottom of the batting order, maybe feeling like you're having a little more freedom about what you're doing to do these different things."
Maddon added that Jennings has the ability to drive in runs, even when he's not going well.
"So there might be some guys on base that he could clean up there," Maddon said. "It's just a different mindset when you're hitting toward the bottom of the order. Again, I'm hoping he relaxes a little bit, does not apply so much pressure to himself to be the table-setter, and sees the ball better, maybe redefine the strike zone."
Entering Saturday, Jennings has hit .194 in 33 games since being activated from the disabled list on June 5. He was hitting .265 through May 14 before being sidelined 21 games with a left knee sprain.
Jennings' .307 on-base percentage while hitting in the leadoff spot ranks 33rd in the Majors; his .232 batting average ranks 39th.