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Jennings hits, runs in advance of rehab stint

Rays outfielder to start assignment with Triple-A on Friday

ST. PETERSBURG -- Since June the Rays have been talking about players returning from the disabled list giving the team a feeling like they acquired a key piece in a Trade Deadline deal.

Count Desmond Jennings in that category. The Rays' outfielder played in just 18 games before going on the DL on May 3 with left knee bursitis, which eventually mandated a clean-up surgery. When he's healthy and playing well, Jennings can be a force on offense.

On Tuesday he could be seen rocking the cheap seats with batting practice shots during early batting practice. One of those shots went particularly far, prompting the observation to Jennings, "You barreled that one up. Isn't that what you guys call it?"

Jennings smiled: "No, I crushed that one."

Jennings smiled a lot on Tuesday, whether he was taking batting practice or running the bases under the watchful eye of head athletic trainer Ron Porterfield.

"I feel like I could actually be active again, you know," Jennings said. "I mean an athlete, I guess you get bored, man. Can't move around if you want to. But [the knee] feels a lot better now."

When asked about his return, Jennings said, "I'm close."

He then explained that he will head to Durham on Thursday in advance of beginning a rehab assignment with the Triple-A Bulls on Friday. The quicker Jennings returns, the better for the Rays' anemic offense that could use a jolt.

"Right now I'm eager to get back out and play," Jennings said. "Of course I want to come back and produce and help the team win some games. But right now, I'm just excited to be active and being able to move around. Do baseball stuff. Hitting BP on the field. I feel like a little kid again just to be able to do some stuff. Run bases. Play catch."

Rays manager Kevin Cash was more specific about the plans for Jennings.

The Bulls have "about a 10-day stretch that should line up pretty good," Cash said. "I don't like to say anybody is starting over. But we have to get his timing and get him out there. He'll start with two at-bats, three at-bats, four or five innings, [a] DH day. We'll factor in all of that. It's very similar to what we did with John Jaso."

Bill Chastain is a reporter for Listen to his podcast.
Read More: Tampa Bay Rays, Desmond Jennings