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Jennings among Rays aiming to bounce back

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Jennings among Rays aiming to bounce back

Talented outfielder hoping to stay injury free, provide power in 2015.

ST. PETERSBURG — Rays pitchers and catchers will have their first workout of Spring Training on Feb. 23, and on Feb. 28, the full squad will be together to begin its preparations for the 2015 season.

Tampa Bay has made a lot of changes during the offseason, so stay tuned to catch up on some of those changes and get ready for what’s in store this season.

In advance of Spring Training, MLB.com will begin to examine all aspects of the team in the days leading up to the start of camp. The first installment of this series is “On the Rebound,” which deals with players coming back from off years or injuries.

OF David DeJesus: Speculation about the veteran outfielder being traded will likely continue throughout Spring Training, but there’s a good chance that DeJesus will be with the club on Opening Day. If he is, the hope is that he can rebound from an injury-plagued 2014 campaign and return to the form that enticed the Rays to trade for him in 2013, then sign him to a two-year deal (plus a ’16 club option) prior to last season. DeJesus brings a lot to the table and could be the answer in the leadoff spot against right-handed pitching, in addition to bringing a veteran’s presence to a young clubhouse.

OF Desmond Jennings: The 28-year-old has shown flashes of brilliance throughout his tenure with Tampa Bay. In the outfield, he’s a whiz at running down balls, and he isn’t afraid of making an aggressive play, even if it means slamming into the wall. Jennings’ 2014 season was cut short by injury, but he now seems to be healthy. A healthy Jennings can do a lot of things. Of note, he’s got speed and he’s emerging as a power hitter. If Jennings can play a full season, the Rays’ offense will be much improved.

3B Evan Longoria: It’s odd to be talking about a player rebounding when he was the team’s best offensive player the previous season, but that’s the case with Longoria. He played in 162 games in 2014, so most, including Longoria, would have expected better results. Of the contributing factors to Longoria’s disappointing ’14 output, the most prominent has to be lack of protection in the order. The nice part for Rays fans comes in the fact Longoria is about as good a bet as there is to rebound in 2015. And remember, the only reason we’re talking about Longoria rebounding is because he needs to rebound to Longoria-type numbers.

RHP Grant Balfour: Tampa Bay signed Balfour prior to the 2014 season to become the team’s closer. Early meltdowns led to him losing the job to Jake McGee. On the bright side, most of Balfour’s issues dealt with command and he seemed to find his old self in September. The big question will be if he can carry over September’s performance to the start of 2015. This will be critical to the Rays’ chances since McGee will miss the beginning of the season due to left elbow surgery.

Source: Jennings among Rays aiming to bounce back by Bill Chastain

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