OAKLAND, Calif. — The historical significance to today's pitching matchup between the Rays' Matt Garza and Oakland's Dallas Braden is that it's just the third time in the past 20 years (though the second in a month) that two pitchers who threw no-hitters met later in the same season.
But for some of the Rays, it's more about recent history, specifically payback for the perfect game Braden threw against them May 9.
"I can't say nobody's not thinking about it; it would be hard to say that," INF Sean Rodriguez said. "There's still some guys hyped up about it, saying, 'Dallas Braden, oh yeah, we have to get him.'
"How do you not? It wasn't just a no-hitter; it was a perfect game. You don't forget that. There's some guys saying we have to give him what we should have given him then."
The circumstances will be just about the same for Braden — another Sunday afternoon getaway day at the Coliseum before the Rays head to Anaheim — but he is at least realistic about having similar success.
"I'm not a math major, but the odds are stacked way against me," Braden said. "You try to do the best you can, and you can't pay attention to what happened last time. These are different teams now. They're in their race; we're on the outs. It's a whole different thing."
The last matchup of pitchers with no-hitters came July 28 when Arizona's Edwin Jackson (who blanked the Rays on June 25) faced Philadelphia's Roy Halladay. Before that, it was a Sept. 6, 1991, matchup between Chicago's Wilson Alvarez (who later became a Ray) and Texas' Nolan Ryan. (A list of the times before that was not available.)
"It's pretty weird. The stars align," Braden said. "I don't know how many times guys who have done this have faced off in a year, but let's face it, it's anything but normal."
Garza didn't think quite as much of it: "It's just another game. He threw a perfect game, I threw a no-hitter, so that's cool."
NEW ROLE: Get ready for the "The Jeremy Rules."
With no further need for rookie RHP Jeremy Hellickson in the rotation, the Rays sent him down to Class A Charlotte to start the process of transitioning him to the bullpen.
And while he's working out — and, just as important, not adding innings to his total of 144 — and learning how to warm up, how long it takes him and how much recovery time he'll need, the Rays will figure out some things for his expected Sept. 1 return, specifically the terms under which he will be used.
"If you're going to use him out of the bullpen, there's still going to be this unknown," manager Joe Maddon said. "You're going to pitch him, and then you're going to want to give him X number of days off based on how many pitches that he threw or how many innings that he went. You're not going to use him like everybody else.
"I would imagine he would do well with this, and then you're going to want to use him more often, but you can't. So you're going to have all these different little rules going on that you're going to create for him to benefit from his abilities and at the same time not abuse his arm."
Hellickson will throw enough that he also could step back into the rotation if needed.
PITCHING IN: The bullpen grew by two. RHP Chad Qualls returned after missing two games for his maternal grandmother's funeral in Southern California, and RHP Dale Thayer arrived after his second callup of the season from Triple-A Durham.
MONEY BALL: The Rays spent $7,150,800 on draft bonuses, ranking 12th among the 30 major-leagues teams, according to a Baseball America study. That was up from the $4,004,500 the Rays spent in 2009 (when they didn't sign their top two picks) and down from 2008, when they doled out $9,921,000. For the three-year period, the $21,076,300 they spent was seventh most.
MISCELLANY: B.J. Upton turned 26 Saturday. … Durham clinched the International League South Division title for the fourth straight season and ninth time in 13 seasons as a Rays affiliate.