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Jeremy Hellickson nears return for Rays

Tampa Bay Rays starting pitcher Jeremy Hellickson (58) throwing live batting practice before the start of the Oakland Athletics against the Tampa Bay Rays in Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Fla. on Thursday, May 22, 2014.


Tampa Bay Rays starting pitcher Jeremy Hellickson (58) throwing live batting practice before the start of the Oakland Athletics against the Tampa Bay Rays in Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Fla. on Thursday, May 22, 2014.

DETROIT — RHP Jeremy Hellickson looked good enough over 52/3 innings in his Thursday rehab start and felt good enough in a Friday throwing session that Rays manager Joe Maddon pronounced him "about ready" to join the rotation.

Hellickson, working his way back from January elbow surgery, was expected to throw a bullpen session at Tropicana Field today. Then executive VP Andrew Friedman and other Rays officials will decide his next step.

After Hellickson's allotted 30-day rehabilitation assignment ends Sunday, the Rays can activate him or option him to the minors for more work.

"He's pretty much ready — almost ready — to rock 'n' roll," Maddon said. "I've got to just have the conversation with Andrew and the guys and the trainers back in St. Pete. But everything looks like he's about ready to come back."

When he does come back, the question is how the Rays work Hellickson in. He is lined up to start Tuesday, the next scheduled start for LHP Erik Bedard, who lasted only two innings Thursday in an 8-1 loss to the Tigers.

TAKE THAT: Maddon said the two batters RHP Alex Cobb hit — Victor Martinez in the fourth and Ian Kinsler in the sixth — were both by accident, and that Tigers LHP Drew Smyly "absolutely" hit 3B Evan Longoria intentionally. But he also said there was "no bad blood brewing" on the Tampa Bay side, and it would be "absolutely insane" if the Tigers thought this went back to similar issues the teams had last season.

STARRY-EYED: The All-Star teams will be announced Sunday and — not that his opinion counts — Maddon now feels two Rays are worthy of inclusion, LHPs Jake McGee and David Price.

"It's pretty close between the two guys," he said. "You've got to look into David's overall first half. I don't know who's really better. … We faced a lot of really good pitchers in the first half. He's got to be in the top five.

"And McGee … I don't know if I've seen a whole lot better than that out of the bullpen, either. I think they're two legitimate candidates. "

BULLPEN SHUFFLE: LHP Jeff Beli­veau didn't have to make any kind of mad airport dash for his latest callup. After being optioned to Triple A on Thursday, he was told to hang around the team hotel in Birmingham, Mich., and Friday was recalled when LHP Cesar Ramos took paternity leave.

The Rays had planned the shuffle but expedited it by a day after Ramos pitched 31/3 innings Thursday, allowing them to add Beliveau's fresh arm.

Beliveau is getting used to the fill-in duty. This is his eighth callup in 11/2 seasons with the Rays, and he spent only 19 days in the majors through the first seven. "Just have to have a bag packed and keep my phone on," he said. "I just know I've got to be ready to pitch, and then if I pitch, I'm probably going to get sent down no matter if I do good or bad. That's just how it works."

Ramos' wife, Melanie, was scheduled to have labor induced today. He is expected to take the full three days allowed and rejoin the team at home Monday. McGee's wife, Morgan McNally, is also set to give birth, with plans to have labor induced after Wednesday's game. The team is off Thursday, so he is likely to miss the weekend series with Toronto.

ESCOBAR UPDATE: SS Yunel Escobar has been throwing during pregame workouts and told Maddon his sore shoulder is "doing a lot better." Escobar is eligible to return for the final series before the All-Star break, starting July 11 against Toronto, and Maddon expects him to be ready then. Escobar might play in two minor-league rehab games before then.

DRAFT BREEZE: The Rays have signed their top 25 picks from the June draft, inking 12th-round CF Braxton Lee and 15th-round RHP Brian Miller from national champ Vanderbilt. Overall, they have signed 36 of 41 picks.

MISCELLANY: RHP Joel Peralta made his 267th appearance for the Rays Friday, breaking the franchise record for pitchers held by Esteban Yan. … Friday was the first time the Rays scored more than four runs in a game against the Tigers going back to June 2011, a streak of 19 such games.

Jeremy Hellickson nears return for Rays 07/04/14 [Last modified: Saturday, July 5, 2014 12:03am]
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