With their season hanging in the balance in their tiebreaker game against the Texas Rangers, the Rays will have all hands on deck. Included in that will be a player the Rays have been missing for far too long and another outfielder making his major league debut.
Desmond Jennings is finally back. Left hamstring tightness has sidelined Jennings since he left September 22nd’s win over the Orioles, but Jennings will leadoff and play centerfield tonight against Martin Perez and Texas. Jennings told reporters that he felt good enough to play–he may not be at 100%, but there’s no chance he was going to miss this game. Jennings’ return is enormous because not only is he the Rays’ catalyst, but he will also be a right-handed bat against the lefty and help the Rays avoid a situation where they would have had no choice but to play a lefty outfielder despite Perez being on the mound. The Rays finished the season on a sluggish note, but with Jennings returning, he may be exactly the burst of energy they need to reinvigorate themselves for a playoff run.
Also joining the Rays is outfielder Kevin Kiermaier, who was added to the 40-man roster with Jesse Crain being transferred to the 60-day DL. Kiermaier had a huge season between Double-A and Triple-A in 2013, managing a .295/.362/.431 line with 15 triples and 21 stolen bases in 571 plate appearances. In this game, Kiermaier’s bat won’t come into play, but he could be interesting as both a pinch-runner and defensive replacement. Kiermaier is a quality defensive centerfielder who is equally good in the corner spots as well, and if the need arises, Joe Maddon won’t hesitate to use him. Kiermaier was ecstatic to be joining the Rays.
Getting Jennings back will be a major lift for the Rays and the addition of Kiermaier could make an impact as well. The Rays’ roster is as good as it will ever be for this tiebreaker game, and Rays fans have to hope they can come away with a victory.