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Rays' Upton, Jennings OK after outfield collision

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Published:   |   Updated: March 18, 2013 at 02:05 PM
PORT CHARLOTTE -

Desmond Jennings sat on the grass wondering what had just happened. B.J. Upton lay next to him twisting in pain, while Tampa Bay Rays manager Joe Maddon and assistant athletic trainer Mark Vinson ran toward left-center field at Charlotte Sports Park.

Fortunately for the two outfielders, their collision during the fourth inning of the Tampa Bay Rays' 4-2 loss Wednesday to the Marlins was not as bad as it appeared.

Upton said he has a sore back and will miss a few days.

"I don't think it will be anything that's going to put me out for a while," he said. "It's just probably day-to-day and we'll see how it feels."

Jennings figures to be sore when he wakes up this morning, but he thinks he could play this afternoon.

"It scared me more than it hurt," Jennings said.

It began with a line drive from Austin Kearns that started to Upton's right, but it was pushed by the stiff breeze toward Jennings in left field. Both outfielders were on the move and calling for the ball.

Upton, running at full speed, reached for the ball with his glove. That's when Jennings saw Upton and tried to stop. Upton saw Jennings at the last second and dropped the ball as he prepared for the impact.

"Luckily, we both saw each other and were able to brace for the hit," Upton said. "If not, I think we hit face-to-face."

Upton's left shoulder hit Jennings in the chest, spinning both players as they slammed to the grass.

"Pretty awful-looking collision," Maddon said.

"I thought concussion on both of them," shortstop Sean Rodriguez said.

Upton and Jennings had trouble recalling the details.

"No idea," Upton said. "Neither one of us has an idea."

"I want to see it again," Jennings said. "I don't know."

Both regained their senses by the time they stood up. They left the game, riding off the field on the back of a cart, and were able to joke less than an hour later as they changed into street clothes.

Jennings is a 6-foot-2, 220-pound former wide receiver who was recruited by Alabama as a junior college All-American. Upton is 6-3, 185 pounds and never played football because he wasn't thrilled with the contact.

"I think I held my own in the collision," Upton said.

Jokes aside, both admitted it was a scary event.

"That's something that can end people's careers," Jennings said. "We got to do a better job of avoiding that situation. It's a pretty scary situation to be in."

Upton said calling for the ball is something they work on during the early days of spring training. Outfield coach George Hendrick constantly reminds them of the importance of communication between outfielders.

"It just so happens that we were yelling at the same time and neither one of us could really hear," Upton said.

Maddon, relieved his players were not seriously injured, saw the good in what first appeared to be very bad.

"The thing I appreciate, honestly," he said, "is how they are going after the ball in a spring training game."

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