7/9/2013 12:30 A.M. ET
Jennings showcasing leadoff skills
By Bill Chastain and Sam Strong / MLB.com
ST. PETERSBURG -- Desmond Jennings has been the Rays' primary leadoff hitter since being called up midway through the 2011 season, and it is not hard to see why.
Jennings stole 20 bases in 63 games that season and swiped 31 more in 2012.
But after 44 starts this season, hitting leadoff in all of them, Jennings had stolen only seven bags and saw his batting average dip to .232.
Manager Joe Maddon is never fearful of tinkering with lineups to spark production, and he did so, bouncing Jennings around the lower part of the order.
Since the team's trip to Houston, Jennings is back at the top and the Rays have lost only one of those seven games. During that stretch, Jennings has 14 hits in 33 at-bats, four of which have led off the game.
He had another big game in Monday's 7-4 win over the Twins, as he went 2-for-4 with a walk, triple and two runs.
"His on-base percentage is a lot better," Maddon said. "The quality of his contact has gotten better. His decision-making is better. He's stealing bases again. He's starting to look like he's supposed to."
Jennings has stolen four bases since returning to the leadoff spot.
"I wasn't getting on base, and once you stop doing something for awhile, it's not that you forget how to do it, you just don't have confidence in it," Jennings said. "As of late, I've been feeling better and swinging better. Everything has been going great."
Scott heating up over last month
ST. PETERSBURG -- Luke Scott entered Monday's action hitting .377 with 10 RBIs over his last 17 games since June 13. Of his 20 hits during that span, 11 have gone for extra bases.
He continued his hot hitting with a first-inning homer in Monday's 7-4 win over the Twins. It was his sixth home run of the year. He finished the night 1-for-4 with a strikeout.
As hot as he's been, Scott feels as though he's not in the midst of his hottest streak with the Rays.
In his first 23 games with the team in 2012, Scott hit .273 with six home runs and 21 RBIs.
"I would say [this year's hot stretch is] pretty good, [but] probably not the best," Scott said. "When I came out of the blocks last year, it was good, because my production numbers were better. I had more home runs.
"This year my batting average with runners in scoring position has been really good. ... It's different when you hit a grand slam and the next day hit a two-run double. That's six RBIs on two swings. In two days. You look overall this year, it's been more consistent. It just hasn't been the big bunches yet."
Rays manager Joe Maddon also felt as though Scott, who's batting .425 with men in scoring position, had experienced hotter stretches with the Rays.
"I've seen him really hot," Maddon said. "Last year at the beginning, he was really good. I think he's getting to that point again. I'd like to see it stay, man, because he does impact the baseball. He hits it to the gaps and drives in runs. He does all those different things. And again, it's just about his patience. When he's patient at the plate and makes the pitcher come to him, he hits the ball well."
Scott's recent work enticed Maddon to put him in the No. 2 spot in Monday night's batting order against the Twins. He'd been hitting either fifth or sixth.
"He's been a lot better with his decision making at the plate," Maddon said. "Of course he's been hitting the ball harder, and I think they're tied together."
Of note, the hirsute Scott is now sporting a rat tail cut, a fashion he has not employed since "... days of Peter Gabriel in the '80s." He explained the genesis of having one now.
"I had a Mohawk going," Scott said. "I was joking around with Ryan Roberts, and he was like, 'If you just shave that Mohawk and leave it on top, [you can] leave the tail in the back.' ... I said I'll try it."
Chance Moore could still be an All-Star
ST. PETERSBURG -- Matt Moore did not make this year's American League All-Star team despite his 12 wins thus far, but Rays manager Joe Maddon said there's still a chance the left-hander will be in New York for the Midsummer Classic.
At least three pitchers on the AL team could be replaced because they are scheduled to start on Sunday, two days before the game.
Moore has said he would love to be considered as a replacement for one of those pitchers. And Maddon would love to see it happen.
"I am hopeful," Maddon said. "I believe it is something that can happen, but I have not heard from anybody yet. There's three guys who are pitching on Sunday who have to be bumped? I'd have to believe Matt's got a pretty good shot under those circumstances. And that would be great."
Moore's next scheduled start is Thursday, which would put him on perfect rest to appear in the game.
The three All-Stars scheduled to pitch on Sunday are: Seattle's Hisashi Iwakuma, Detroit's Justin Verlander and Oakland's Bartolo Colon.
Cobb throws second bullpen after concussion
ST. PETERBURG -- Rays right-hander Alex Cobb continued to make progress on Monday, when he threw his second bullpen session after sustaining a concussion from being struck with a line drive on June 15.
Cobb threw 47 pitches on Monday after throwing 27 in his first bullpen session on Friday. He is scheduled to throw another on Thursday.
"The way I feel off the field versus the last time I threw a bullpen is 10 times better," Cobb said. "There isn't a huge difference on the mound. I felt good enough last time, even when I didn't feel great off the field. That's a good sign. Pitching isn't as taxing on my head as I thought it would be."
Cobb struggled with vertigo because of fluid trapped in his inner ear, but it continues to decrease daily. He is well ahead of the pace Tampa Bay's training staff originally mapped out for him.
"I think most of the symptoms are gone," Cobb said. "I still experience a little vertigo randomly, but you can't even compare how much better I am from where I was."
The training staff has not given Cobb a timeline for when he might be able to appear in a game, but Cobb is eyeing an August return.
After Thursday's bullpen session, Cobb will face live hitters throwing from behind a screen.
"I'm extremely anxious to get out there and face hitters," he said. "There is no concern in my mind right now that I'll be worried. I would like to get out there as soon as possible."
Cobb is 6-2 with a 3.01 ERA in 13 starts.
Bill Chastain is a reporter for MLB.com and Sam Strong is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.