Desmond Jennings has been on the disabled list since the beginning of May. He entered the season as the team's starting left fielder but he struggled at the plate. He only played in 18 games for the Rays before being sidelined with what was originally diagnosed as left knee bursitis. He was placed on the DL on May 3rd, a move that was back dated to April 26th allowing Jennings to hopefully return on May 11th.
However, as time passed, Jennings time table kept being pushed back until early June when it was revealed he'd undergo arthroscopic knee surgery. The knee issue wasn't fresh news for the Rays and Jennings as the issue also plagued him towards the end of the 2014 season, causing him to miss the final 28 games last year.
So far this season, Jennings has slashed .222/.306/.238 with only one extra base hit (a double) in 18 games, good for 61 wRC+. He's finally set to return to the Rays after over three months on the disabled list. During his rehab assignment he slashed .167/.310/.250 to go along with five walks and six strike outs in 29 plate appearances over 8 games between Durham and Port Charlotte. The only question now is, who goes down in favor of Jennings?
The Rays are currently playing with 14 position players on their active roster and about half of them have played in the outfield this season. Among those players are Grady Sizemore and Daniel Nava who are unlikely to be sent down due to them being left-handed batters, although Sizemore does present an intriguing possibility if the Rays are still able to option him as they did earlier this year. Sizemore then could simply return in a few weeks when the rosters expand.
The Rays also have Kevin Kiermaier, Brandon Guyer, John Jaso, and Joey Butler in their outfield rotation along with Richie Shaffer, who has yet to make his debut in the outfield. The most obvious choice to be sent down is Joey Butler, but another choice (which would be very unpopular) is Richie Shaffer.
Shaffer was promoted just over a week ago and has already thrilled Rays fans with his play. He hit two homers in the past week, his first of which was made memorable for his family and Shaffer alike as the Rays pulled off a perfectly executed 'silent treatment', and his second home run turned out to be the game winning run in a crucial series against the Mets.
The reason for Shaffer's possible demotion would be for him to get reps everyday and some practice in the outfield. With the way the Rays lineup is currently set, it's a struggle for Cash to get everyday playing time for the young slugger. On any given day, Cash will have Longoria at third, Loney at first, and Jaso as the DH. With Jennings returning, he'll most certainly get the nod most days in left. Meaning Shaffer will most likely receive few starts, unless the team is taking on a southpaw (not in the starting lineup again tonight).
However, the poor performance of Joey Butler since the end of June could certainly warrant his demotion. Butler was promoted when Jennings was first placed on the disabled list and he quickly became the team's best offensive player slashing .338/.378/.519 over his first 44 games with the club, however since that time he's hit an abysmal .158/.256/.184 with a 33.7 K%. Butler also offers little defensive ability in the outfield, so he isn't bringing much to the table.
The Rays may even switch out two players as Drew Smyly is close to returning, so they could actually send down a pair of players for the ones returning from the DL. Whatever the case, it'll interesting to see how it plays out.