By Steve Hunt
Special to the Journal
ARLINGTON, Texas – Ever since making his big-league debut in September 2010, Desmond Jennings has always been someone who lets what he does on the field do the talking. And even as the former Itawamba Community College two-sport standout is in the last year of his contract with the Tampa Bay Rays, the veteran center fielder admits he isn’t too concerned.
“I have no idea (what will happen),” he said. “I just go out and play every day and let the people who need to worry about that part worry about it. I just come here to play, have fun and play the game that I’ve been playing since I was a kid.”
Jennings, 27, headed into this season with some nice momentum after playing a career-high 132 games in 2013, a season where he established new career highs in five offensive categories. Through 115 games this season as Tampa’s primary leadoff man, he was hitting .241 with 10 home runs, 35 RBI and 15 stolen bases.
But on many nights, it’s his defense that leaves the biggest impression with fans and opposing players. And on last Tuesday night at Texas, he delivered a spectacular catch in center field against the Rangers, one where he crashed hard into the wall.
That catch resulted in some shoulder soreness that sidelined him for the next two nights before returning on Friday for the start of a three-game set with the Yankees, but strong defense remains one of his and the Rays’ calling cards.
“Yeah, I love to play defense, stop people from scoring, make things happen with big catches. That’s kind of what we’re built on. We pride ourselves on our defense,” Jennings said.
As a member of the Rays organization from Day 1 of his big-league career, that means he has seen countless teammates come and go. However, Jennings admits that seeing fellow Tampa fixture David Price traded to Detroit prior to the MLB trade deadline was tough because of what Price meant to the franchise.
“I wouldn’t say surprised because it’s not the first time you’ve seen something like that and you knew at some point that was going to happen,” he said.
“Not really surprised about it, but you hate to see somebody like that on another team. It’s a nice presence to have in the clubhouse, on the mound, in the dugout. But it’s part of the game. You knew at some point it was going to happen.”
Steve Hunt is a freelance writer based in Frisco, Texas.