PORT CHARLOTTE (AP) — Sure, Desmond Jennings wants to see more pitches per at-bat. Yes, he’d like to take more walks this season. And maybe this is the year he finally masters the bunt.
But the Tampa Bay Rays center fielder and leadoff man sees his job as a simple one: get on base.
He did that two more times on a Monday night, but the Minnesota Twins rallied to tie it in the ninth then won it in the 10th inning, 6-4 Monday night.
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Jennings scored the game’s first run when he doubled to left-center in the first and came around on a double by Evan Longoria. Perhaps more impressive was Jennings’ turn at plate leading off the bottom of the third. After failing to get down a bunt on the first pitch, he worked the count full before walking.
With six free passes in 25 plate appearances, Jennings has an on base percentage over .500.
“I’m just trying to swing at strikes,” said Jennings, back in the lineup and at full speed after tweaking his ankle on the bases Saturday. “I’ll take my walks all day. My goal is to get on base — do whatever I can to get on base and try to zone the pitcher in on balls over the plate.”
Jennings was known for his plate discipline in the minor leagues and his early stints with the Rays. But he walked only 46 times last year and his on-base percentage plummeted to .314 in his first full season with the major league club.
That won’t cut it for the top of the order. He knows he needs to find ways to get on base in front of bats like Longoria’s. He’ll even try a bunt now and then.
The new approach is working. He’s not just walking but seeing better pitches to hit after working the count.
“I don’t know, you just get caught up in the moment,” said Jennings of his struggles to get on base consistently last season. “I was trying to do too much instead of just doing my job. I was just . wanting to be aggressive and swing at everything instead of zoning in.”
Twins designated hitter Oswaldo Arcia appeared to have found the zone as well. He had two hits ans scored twice batting cleanup. Arcia, Minnesota’s 2012 minor league player of the year, was playing only his second spring game while working back from a pulled intercostal muscle.
Ron Gardenhire wishes his young hitter saw a few more pitches like Jennings. But the Twins manager is otherwise encouraged.
“He’s a swinger, but the kid can hit,” Gardenhire said. “He generates bat speed and he’s fun to watch up there. He’s very intense. He doesn’t look like he thinks anybody should get him out.”
Minnesota scored the go-ahead runs when Clete Thomas led off the 10th with a double and scored when Ray Olmedo followed with a triple. Olmedo came home on a sacrifice fly.
Notes: Vance Worley gave up two earned runs on five hits in four innings. An offseason acquisition from Philadelphia, Worley walked one and struck out two. He has an ERA of 5.63 this spring. . . . Luke Scott hit his first home run on a towering shot that just cleared the fence in left. . . . The Twins scored the tying runs in the top of the ninth when Joe Benson and Eric Fryer tripled to start the inning. Benson scored but Fryer was stranded at third.