George Christian Pappas, ESPN RadioST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- James Shields called Desmond Jennings a five-tool player after the outfielder gunned out Jeff Francouer at second base trying to stretch a sixth-inning single in the Rays' 4-0 victory, Tuesday.
Joe Maddon agreed that the rookie Jennings made a noteworthy play, but amended Shields' comment."Des' arm is approaching average," Maddon said Wednesday. The key to Jennings' play was his quickness to the ball and footwork, he said.Then the manager launched into a discussion on outfielder positioning and mechanics. "Too many outfielders do it wrong," Maddon said, using his hands to show how the feet pedal correctly. Maddon learned from Joe DiMaggio's understudy, Sam Suplizio, in the Pacific Coast League. Suplizio was a Yankees prospect who supposedly broke his arm the day before his call-up and never reached the big leagues. He eventually would own the Grand Junction Golden Eagles, where he got to know Maddon as a player. Suplizio would say it was usually clear by the time a player was in high school whether he had a good sense of footwork. It was a skill that was tough to teach, Maddon recalled.The two most critical components to developing arm strength were consistent long toss and proper footwork, followed by getting to the ball quickly and having the right arm trajectory. Improvement would come only with consistent drill work; but by itself, footwork was a tough skill to teach, Maddon said. He applauded Delmon Young's footwork, saying that the former Rays outfielder is the textbook example for footwork and throwing. Matt Joyce does it right most of the time, he added. Carl Crawford learned, but the best learner was former Angels' outfielder Garrett Anderson. "GA really got it down in left field. CC did too, especially on low balls off the wall in left field."The Rays can only hope that Jennings will be a quick learner. He's off to a fine start, hitting .328 on the season. He stroked three home runs and drove in 11 home runs since his call-up. Though he had an off-day Wednesday, he will be a mainstay in Tampa Bay's outfield.George Christian Pappas covers the Tampa Bay Rays and Major League Baseball for ESPN Radio Gainesville/Ocala. He is finishing his degree in journalism and Spanish at the University of Florida. You can send him questions or comments at
Sir Charles with the slam