04/18/09 11:21 PM ET
Jennings setting the table at Double-A
Speedy prospect in the groove after injury-plagued year
By John Torenli / Special to MLB.com
Eager to shake off an injury-plagued campaign, the Rays' speedy outfield prospect is off and running in 2009, as evidenced by his performance Saturday night.
Jennings collected a career-high five hits, drove in three runs and scored twice, setting the table for the Montgomery Biscuits as they cruised to a 10-5 victory over the Chattanooga Lookouts at AT&T Field.
"I've been anticipating this season ever since the offseason," said Jennings. "I've been ready to go and really anxious to get back on the field."
Tampa Bay's 10th-round pick in the 2006 First-Year Player Draft was blazing a path through the Minors during his first two seasons as a professional. He hit .277 with 10 doubles, 20 RBIs and 32 steals in only 56 games during his pro debut with Rookie-level Princeton in 2006 before batting .315 with nine homers, 37 RBIs and 45 steals in 99 contests at Class A Columbus during his sophomore campaign.
But the fast track to the big leagues slowed a bit in 2008 as Jennings was sidelined for the first two months with a back injury. He played in only 24 games for Class A Advanced Vero Beach before undergoing season-ending surgery on his left shoulder.
Jennings batted .259 with two homers, six RBIs and five steals for Vero Beach but got another 39 at-bats with the Peoria Javelinas of the exclusive Arizona Fall League before shutting it down for the winter.
"I had a lot of time off, so I had a lot of time to improve on everything," Jennings said. "I just tried to keep everything up to par."
Thus far in '09, Jennings is showing off the stuff that made him a rising star in the Tampa system before his injury-plagued campaign.
The Birmingham, Ala., native is hitting a smoldering .372 with five RBIs, 10 runs scored and five steals in his first 10 games with Montgomery. He also has put together four multi-hit games, none as impressive as Saturday's performance.
Jennings led off the game with the first of his four singles and came home on a groundout by Cesar Suarez to open the scoring. He ripped a two-run triple during a three-run second inning, delivered an RBI base hit in the third, singled again in the fifth, struck out in the seventh and capped his night with an infield hit in the ninth.
"I was just trying to get on base any way I could," Jennings said. "My job is to get on base and get into scoring position."
The former South Atlantic League midseason and postseason All-Star is riding a five-game hitting streak, going a blistering 11-for-21 with seven runs scored. He's just hoping the Rays organization takes notice of his fast start and, more importantly, his return to health.
"Hopefully, they know [I'm healthy again]," Jennings said. "I just have to keep it up, keep hustling and being aggressive."
John Torenli is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.