ARLINGTON, Texas — CF Desmond Jennings sat out the final game of the regular season because of a left hamstring strain, but he wasn’t going to sit out what became the last game of the season when the Tampa Bay Rays’ schedule was extended to a Game 163.
Jennings returned to center field and to the top of the order Monday when the Rays and Rangers met at Rangers Ballpark in the one-game tiebreaker to decide the final AL wild-card spot.
“I don’t want to miss this game,” he said.
Jennings, limited to a pair of pinch-hitting appearances since he strained the hamstring Sept. 22 while running to first base against the Orioles, put the hamstring to the test before batting practice during running and fielding drills with head athletic trainer Ron Porterfield. Jennings said he could play and manager Joe Maddon, who had filled out two lineup cards, used the one with Jennings in center field.
“I love the idea that he feels like he wants to play and he knows the difference he can make for us,” Maddon said of Jennings’ desire not to miss the biggest game of the year.
When asked how the injury felt Monday as opposed to Sunday when Maddon kept him out of the lineup, Jennings said, “It feels good enough for me to play.”
Jennings said before the game that he wasn’t going to hold himself back, and he lined the first pitch of the game down the left-field line and was thrown out trying to stretch the single into a double.
“It’s the last game of the year, could be, could not be,” Jennings said. “But if something happens, you got all offseason for it to fully heal back up.”
September’s top rookie is Myers
RF Wil Myers was named the AL rookie of the month for September after batting .314 with four home runs, 14 RBIs, 13 doubles and 18 runs.
“It was pretty cool, but the biggest thing is being able to help the team down the stretch, have some good at-bats up there,” Myers said. “I think it’s good to have a good month down the stretch. I’m excited about the award, but more so about the team.”
Myers said he hasn’t given much thought to the AL Rookie of the Year Award, but he is among the leading candidates.
Crain placed on 60-day DL
The Rays played RHP Jesse Crain on the 60-day disabled list to give them roster flexibility. Executive vice president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman said the tightness Crain experienced while warming up Sept. 23 was not going away anytime soon.
Crain, acquired July 29 in a trade with the White Sox, has not pitched since June, but Friedman said he doesn’t regret the move.
“We obviously had really high hopes in that when healthy he’s one of the best right-handed relievers in the game,” Friedman said. “That said, we knew the risk associated with the move. The risk/reward at the time we made the decision, we felt really comfortable with it. So, though the outcome didn’t play out the way we would have ideally liked, the process was really good.”
DeJesus wants to return
OF David DeJesus, who joined the team Aug. 23, said he would like to remain with the Rays in 2014. His 2014 contract calls for a $6.5 million salary or a $1.5 million buyout.
“This is an organization that I’m really confident about. They make a lot of right moves, and they feel that I’m the type of player that fits in with these guys pretty well, so I would hope to be back, but it’s out of my control right now,” DeJesus said. “Ultimately I would love to be here.”
RHP Jeff Niemann (right shoulder surgery) visited the Rays before Monday’s game and said he is excited about the progress of his rehab. Niemann said his throwing program has him throwing at 90 feet.
“Constantly moving back and moving forward,” he said.
Niemann, who is arbitration-eligible, said he expects to be ready by spring training.
“The way things are going, the timeline really looks well for next year,” he said. “It’s still very early in the process, but the way things are, we’re definitely ahead of schedule.”
1B James Loney shared AL player of the week honors with Rangers RF Alex Rios. … The Rays added OF Kevin Kiermaier to the roster Monday to add depth to their outfield defense. “He is as good of a defender as there is in professional baseball in our opinion. He is really gifted in the outfield and also has a tremendous arm. So he has a chance to be a real weapon for us late in the game,” Friedman said.