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Rays Notes: Heavier Jennings hopes for more power

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Published:   |   Updated: March 5, 2014 at 08:46 PM

PORT CHARLOTTE -- CF Desmond Jennings arrived in camp 8 to 10 pounds heavier than he’s been in the past. The reason, he said, is to be at his normal playing weight after dropping his usual 10 pounds over the course of spring training.

If it results in more power, so be it.

“I want to be able to drive the ball to all fields, but I still want to run fast,” Jennings said Wednesday after his three-run homer in the fifth inning helped the Rays rally past the visiting Yankees 5-4 at Charlotte Sports Park.

“It was nice to see Desmond get into something,” Rays manager Joe Maddon said.

The long home run, which cleared the boardwalk in left field, had more to do with Jennings not missing his pitch, Maddon said, than an increase of power due to is increase in weight.

“It’s about not fouling off the pitch that he likes, because he’s strong enough to do that,” Maddon said. “It’s just a matter of being in position to hit that pitch more often. I think that’s more of a mechanical than physical thing.”

Jennings hit a career-high 14 home runs and had a career-high 51 extra-base hits last season. He also stole 20 bases, giving him three straight seasons of at least 20 steals.

So, he brings both threats to the lineup -- speed and power. He wants to maintain both.

“I want everything,” he said.

Odrozzi’s new pitch

RHP Jake Odorizzi pitched the ninth inning Wednesday after throwing 40 pitches in the bullpen. He allowed a pair of hits but got out of the jam, using his new changeup almost exclusively.

Odorizzi is learning to throw RHP Alex Cobb’s changeup -- “The Thing,” Cobb calls -- as a means to improve his chances of landing the final spot in the rotation. At the beginning of camp, Odorizzi asked Cobb to show him the pitch. The two play catch each day with Cobb critiquing the pitch.

“I’m really glad I asked him about it,” Odorizzi said. “The last couple of games it’s turning into a weapon for me.”

First start for Ramos

LHP Cesar Ramos, newly minted as a candidate for the fifth spot in the rotation, pitched 2 2/3 innings Wednesday. He allowed two runs on four hits and struck out two.

“The ups and downs, I was more curious to see how I was going to react to it,” Ramos said. “I felt fine the whole way.”

Ramos said he let the Rays know he was interested in competing for the spot in the rotation that opened when RHP Jeremy Hellickson underwent elbow surgery Jan. 28. He said he was told the Rays had been talking during the offseason about letting him start.

He said he didn’t know he was going to get a start until he was told after his first outing that he was throwing a bullpen.

“It’s huge,” he said of the opportunity. “I feel like every player is made on the opportunity they’re given and what they do with the opportunity. This is an opportunity for me to get my foot in the door again as a starter. If I do well, great. It’s what I do with the opportunity.”

Ramos said he’s throwing a bullpen Friday so he knows he’s getting at least one more start.

Zobrist feeling fine

2B Ben Zobrist homered in the first inning and singled in his third at-bat while playing in just his second game since being slowed by a lower back strain.

“It’s nice to hit a couple of balls hard and start off spring with that first one hard and keep building on that,” Zobrist said.

Zobrist is not scheduled to play again until Saturday, when the Rays return to Charlotte Sports Park.

Noteworthy

LHP Erik Bedard, also competing for the last spot in the rotation, pitched three scoreless innings Wednesday. He allowed three hits, walked a better and struck out two. ... RHP Grant Balfour allowed two runs in his lone inning, with both scoring on a two-out single by LF Brett Gardner. ... DH Matt Joyce hit his first home of the spring to break a 4-4 tie in the fifth inning. “It’s nice to get Matty untracked a little bit,” Maddon said.

rmooney@tampatrib.com

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Twitter: @RMooneyTBO

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