Jennings Latest Ray to See Season Halted At Most Promising Point

By Robbie Knopf

Initial X-rays were negative. Shouldn’t that say enough? Desmond Jennings hurt his finger stealing second base in the 10th inning on Saturday, but he said that he felt fine, saying that “It doesn’t feel like it would be a DL thing.” And then the X-rays confirmed it. There was some concern, but Jennings was going to be OK and a crisis was going to be averted. However, X-rays have their limitations and teams often send players to their team doctors for a second look just to be safe. Usually the second opinion is a waste of time. Pitchers receive one when a doctor tells them that they will need Tommy John Surgery, but they know deep down that their fate is sealed. The second opinion has always been a formality confirming something that teams know is true 99% of the time. Well, Desmond Jennings was in the other one percent.

Jennings has been placed on the 15-day DL with a small fracture in his left middle finger. Apparently it was small enough that the X-rays missed it, but team hand specialist Dr. Doug Carlan picked up on it and the Rays weren’t going to take any risks with their promising your centerfielder. It remains to be seen how long Jennings will be out, but given that it was thought to be mild at the onset, you have to hope he will be back after the minimum 15 days.

It hurts enough to lose a player like Jennings. But insult is added to the rapidly increasing pile of injuries when we think about how Jennings was the third injury for the Rays this season that followed the exact same series of events. This season, Jennings is finally living up to the potential Rays fans saw in him when he first came up to the big leagues in July and August of 2011. On the season, Jennings has a .258/.326/.419 line (109 OPS+) with 25 doubles, 11 homers, 40 RBI, and 17 stolen bases in 24 attempts, and lately he has been playing as well as ever. He has slumped a little bit of late, but he has rebounded from a tough April to have an outstanding year, pairing his great speed with as much power as any leadoff man in baseball. Jennings looked as promising as ever, began to fade just slightly, and then got hurt, exactly what happened to Alex Cobb and Matt Moore for a short time. The more chilling parallel, though, comes in the way the injuries were reported. Cobb was hit by the line drive and we heard that he only had a mild concussion, but they we heard about the ear issue that has sidelined him until now. Before Moore went down, we heard about Ryan Roberts being pulled from the Triple-A Durham game and thought the Rays were about to make a trade. Instead, Moore went down. And now with Jennings, it sounded like his injury would be a minor issue and now suddenly he’s going on the 15-day DL.

The past couple years, the Rays dealt with a crushing Evan Longoria injury that derailed the entire team, making a playoff berth improbable in 2011 and impossible in 2012. Now, it’s as though Rays are exchanging Longoria being healthy for demoralizing injury after demoralizing injury, and while the Rays have found their way to a great season, the injuries are bringing everyone down. The injuries just keep coming but the Rays have continued to keep up their torrid pace. But whether they succeed or fail with Jennings gone, they have to be asking “why us?” and “why like this?”