Tampa Bay Rays LF Desmond Jennings swung away in the indoor batting cage at Camden Yards early Wednesday afternoon and took some time to run the bases for a Sports Illustrated photo shoot.
He said his back was not an issue during either activity and, partially because his back felt good, Jennings was not in the lineup when the Rays lost their second straight to the Baltimore Orioles in a crucial three-game series.
Head athletic trainer Ron Porterfield and manager Joe Maddon decided to give Jennings one more day to rest his stiff lower back, though Jennings was available to pinch-run or play defense Wednesday.
"Wake up (today). Feel good. And if he feels good we'll play him. It's just a little bit of cautious on our part. It's one of the things where you say, 'I feel good, I can play.' That's good. Let's wait one more day kind of a thing," Maddon said.
Jennings has missed four games and might miss five, because Maddon said he's not "100 percent" sure that Jennings would play this afternoon and he isn't surprised Jennings has missed this many games.
"Not really," Maddon said. "Ronnie's been telling me maybe even miss all of Baltimore. He thought that a couple of days ago. He just kept calling it day-to-day. It just is what it is. He wasn't awful. It wasn't the next day kind of a thing. Let's just play it one day at a time. Let's not push him then have him come up to the point where we can't use him for a while, so let's be cautious. I like how Ronnie's handled it, and I think (Jennings) will be able to start starting again (today.)"
Jennings didn't seem too upset that he wasn't in Wednesday's lineup, despite repeatedly saying before the game that he felt good.
"It may not be the smartest thing to do right from the jump, from going from doing nothing for a few days to jumping right back in it," he said. "I guess they wanted to see how I react from doing some baseball stuff, some hitting and running. So far, so good."
Oh yeah, Stu was frustrated
Owner Stuart Sternberg checked in on his team Wednesday, and admitted there were times this season when he wondered if the Rays would be playing meaningful games this month.
"Oh yeah, you get frustrated more than anything and then you win three out of four and you're like, 'This is great.' You're like a fan," he said. "The lows are lower and the highs are higher."
So, how does this September compare to last September?
"I keep myself out of the comparison business," he said. "But if we want to talk comparisons I believe it would be nice if I could keep comparing Septembers each and every year going forward. Nothing can ever compare to '08, and nothing can ever compare to 2011. I'd like to sit here next year and tell you nothing could ever compare to 2012."
Cut the cutter
RHP Jeremy Hellickson did not factor in the decision in his previous start after holding the Rangers to one run in six innings. The Rays won 3-1 in 11 innings on a two-run homer from Ben Zobrist.
But Hellickson was pleased with the way he pitched, because he gave the Rays a chance to win. One way he did that was using his cutter against Rangers lefties Josh Hamilton and Mitch Moreland. He said it's a pitch he plans on using today against the Orioles' lefties.
"They have some good ones, too, so I think I'll use it a little more (today)," Hellickson said.
Maddon wasn't too happy to hear that. He'd rather Hellickson stick with his fastball.
"There's a place for it if utilized in the proper amount, because when you're using you're third- or fourth-best pitch you're not using your first or second-best pitch," Maddon said. "I'm not opposed to it in small doses. I just don't like it in larger doses when it impacts what you do really well."
#162STRONG ticket packs
The Rays are offering a special ticket package called #162STRONG for the remaining 10 regular-season home games.
For $25 fans can purchase a ticket to any three of the 10 remaining home games in the lower box, lower reserved, press level, baseline box, outfield, upper box and upper reserved sections.
The #162STRONG pack is available online at raysbaseball.com, at the Rays Tampa Store (400 N. Tampa St.) and the Gate 1 Tropicana Field box office or by calling 888-FAN-RAYS.
LHP David Price will start Friday when the Rays open a three-game series at Yankee Stadium. … Maddon said whether 3B Evan Longoria returns to third today or serves as the DH depends on how Longoria feels after playing third Wednesday night.