Hellickson has elbow surgery, out until mid- to late-May
UPDATE, 1:53: Hellickson said the injury is even more frustrating because of how driven he was to make up for last season.
"I was absolutely looking forward to getting back out there this year,'' he said. "I guess a lot of people where doubting me toward the end of last year so I was motivated to get back out there and do what I know I can do. So it definitely sucks. It's frustrating to have to go through this and miss hopefully just a month, month and a half.''
Hellickson, who has had no previous surgeries, said he was told the rehab process can take 6-10 weeks, so he is hoping to be on the short end of that and then start working his way back into game form to return to the rotation. "The beginning of May is what I'm shooting for,'' he said. "Anything before that is good. Hopefully I'm out there sooner rather than later.''
As for the actual procedure Eaton performed, Hellickson said: "They just took a couple loose bodies that I guess were floating around in there, just removed them.''
UPDATE, 1:13: Hellickson said he felt felt only occasional slight discomfort when he started throwing in December, but it got worse to the point during a bullpen session on around Jan. 19 where he couldn't straighten his arm and felt it was locked up.
"Everything was going good,'' Hellickson said Monday. "I think right at beginning of my throwing program I felt just a little discomfort but nothing too bad so I just kept throwing. It'd feel good for a week and then it would go back to feeling irritated and not comfortable. Then I just kind of wanted to wait until I got on the mound to see how it felt. I threw my first bullpen and it felt good, then I got on the mound three days later and I couldn't even really staighten out my arm, it was kind of locked up. I threw about 10-15 pitches that bullpen, and came away with it just didn't feel good at all, not comfortable."
Hellickson also said he didn't think the elbow condition was an issue in his disappointing 2013, that he felt only what he considered "normal wear and tear, normal tightness" then, and that it felt similar when he started throwing in December.
"The irritation that I felt on that second bullpen wasn't anything compared to what I felt last year - it was far worse than anything I felt last year,'' he said.
Hellickson had the surgery on Wednesday, and will return to Florida and report to spring training next week as scheduled.
BREAKING: Rays right-hander Jeremy Hellickson had arthroscopic surgery on his right elbow last week and expected to be out until mid- to late-May, the Times has learned.
Hellickon, 26, had loose bodies removed from his elbow by Dr. Koco Eaton in what is considered a minor procedure, and is likely to miss the first 6-8 weeks of the season.
Hellickson struggled through a rough 2013 season with a 12-10, 5.17 record. Hellickson, agent Scott Boras and team officials said at the end and after the season they did not think there was anything physically wrong just that he pitched poorly.
Hellickson started working out in his native Iowa and as recently as Jan. 17, the day he settled his arbitration case for $3.65-million, said he was in good shape and looking forward to the season.
"I'm feeling really good,'' he said then. "I feel good going into every spring. I'll be down there (in Florida) about a week early to start working out,''
But something flared up when he was throwing, the Rays had him come to St. Petersburg and Eaton did the surgery last week.
The Rays, in not trading ace David Price, looked to have one of the strongest rotations in the majors.
Without Hellickson, they likely would turn first to Jake Odorizzi to join Price, Alex Cobb, Matt Moore and Chris Archer. Alex Colome, who is returning from injury, and Enny Romero would be other in-house possibilities or they could seek to sign or acquire a starter. There was a report last week they had interest in free-agent A.J. Burnett, so it would seem his cost would be prohibitive as their payroll is already in excess of $80-million.