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Jennings showcasing leadoff skills

Jennings showcasing leadoff skills

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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."

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.

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