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Jeremy Hellickson to start Tampa Bay Rays' first game after All-Star break

CLEVELAND — The Rays reset their rotation for the resumption of play after the All-Star break that starts today, giving RHP Jeremy Hellickson a welcome chance to put a rough first half behind him with a good start against the Red Sox on Friday to open the second.

"I haven't pitched like I wanted to," said Hellickson, 4-5, 3.41. "Then taking a ball off the shin and the shoulder fatigue (that landed him on the disabled list for two weeks), it's just been frustrating all in all the last month.

"So it'll be nice to take a break and start fresh that first game."

Hellickson will be followed by All-Star LHP David Price and RHP James Shields against Boston. RHP Alex Cobb and LHP Matt Moore will follow and pitch the first two of a four-game series with Cleveland.

Manager Joe Maddon said the shuffling accomplished three goals:

• Give extra rest to Shields, who threw 121 pitches over seven innings Sunday, and Price, who is expected to work an inning in Tuesday's All-Star Game.

• Split up Hellickson and Cobb, who have similar repertoires and pitching styles, as well as the lefties, Price and Moore.

• Set them up going forward deeper into the second half.

"It breaks everything up, and it kind of works out all right that way," Maddon said.

HOT STUFF: DH Luke Scott was the coldest hitter in the game as he ran a hitless streak to a team-record 0-for-41 until homering in his third at-bat Friday. And now he's one of the hottest, going 5-for-12 with two doubles and two homers and six RBIs.

pregame tweaks: When the Rays resume play Friday, Maddon hopes some changes to their pregame work routine produce better results. Maddon wouldn't get specific, though he said they would not be going old school and taking infield practice.

"We do need to get better. We need to become a more consistent team, and postbreak, I have some ideas for that. And we'll try to implement them," he said. "It's just the way we're going to work."

The Rays scattered after the game and will reconvene Thursday afternoon at the Trop for a workout that under new MLB rules is not mandatory. Still, Maddon said, "We'll have a good turnout."

DESMOND DOWN: Slumping LF Desmond Jennings was dropped from the leadoff spot to seventh in the order for the second time in the past two weeks, and Maddon said it's "possible" he'll stay there for a while. SS Elliot Johnson hit leadoff Sunday, and Maddon seemed to like the idea.

Jennings, in 32 games since coming off the DL following a left knee sprain, has hit just .200 with 34 strikeouts and only 10 walks. Sunday, though, he had a two-run double and an 11-pitch strikeout.

"If you look at the numbers through June and July, they've not been normal Desmond numbers," Maddon said. "I've been trying to give him that opportunity. But as we move forward, we just have to become more consistent.

"And I think also it gives him a chance to work on some things. The biggest thing for me with him just would be organization of the strike zone — to accept his walks and lay off certain pitches that make the pitchers come to him more. Taking the pressure off being the leadoff hitter permits you to do that."

MISCELLANY: The Rays struck out 15 times Sunday and 40 in the four-game series. … Shields allowed 10 hits, the third straight start he has been in double digits, and has allowed a total of 34 over the 212/3 innings. … The Rays are 17-6 in "getaway" games. … OF Sam Fuld (right wrist surgery) will resume his rehab stint with Class A Charlotte tonight.

Jeremy Hellickson to start Tampa Bay Rays' first game after All-Star break 07/08/12 [Last modified: Sunday, July 8, 2012 10:40pm]
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