OAKLAND, Calif. — RHP Jeremy Hellickson takes the mound this afternoon for his fourth start since coming off the disabled list and is hoping to get through five innings for the first time.
Part of the issue is that Hellickson needs to pitch better. In 132/3 innings since returning from January elbow surgery, he has allowed 17 hits (for a .304 average) and five walks.
"The main thing is to attack the zone more and attack the zone more," Hellickson said.
But a bigger part may be regaining the confidence of manager Joe Maddon, who has been quick to pull him at the first signs of trouble.
"I haven't pitched well, I haven't really given him a reason to leave me out there," Hellickson said. "Obviously I'd like to get a chance to work out of my own jams and go deeper into the game, but with the bullpen we have and every game a must-win there's not really time to wait around, so I just have to be better early and give him confidence to leave me out there late in the game."
Maddon said it's ultimately a combination of both issues. Strategically, the Rays want to see him be more aggressive in putting hitters away and make more use of his curveball.
"It's not that I lack confidence in him," Maddon said. "I just know what's going on right now. We've just got to get him beyond that. It's almost like he's teetering, we've got to get him beyond that one moment. All of a sudden there's that breakthrough and then heads up, he turns back into what he had been a couple years ago. Coming off surgery there's all kinds of doo-dads going in mentally. You want him to go deeper into games, absolutely. And under a different set of circumstances he probably would have right now."
There has been a pattern. In the three starts this season, Hellickson has been pulled after 41/3, 42/3 and 42/3 innings. In his 2013 ALDS Game 4 start, he got one inning. In his last five starts of the 2013 regular season: 42/3, 22/3, 51/3, 51/3, 22/3, 41/3.
TEMPER, TEMPER: Maddon was ejected in the 10th inning of Monday's 3-2 loss, upset with first-base umpire Quinn Wolcott's "egregiously bad" call on a check swing that would have been strike three on Josh Donaldson. It instead led to a bases-loading walk then Derek Norris' winning single.
It was Maddon's third ejection in the past 24 games, reflective of either his intensity as the team battles back into the race or his frustration. Has he heard from MLB about his actions? "Not yet," he said. "I think every one has been justified. I was upset (Monday) night; that was a pretty big moment."
THANKS DAVID: Maddon and other Rays were impressed with the full-page ad traded ace LHP David Price took out in Tuesday's Tampa Bay Times thanking many members of the organization as well as the fans. "It was very nice of him and very cool that he recognized all the guys the way he did," Maddon said. "One of the best teammates I've ever been around."
K CLUB: With reliever Kirby Yates getting Nate Freiman swinging to end the seventh, the Rays' logged their 1,000th strikeout for the season, and they got there quicker, in their 113th game, than any team in MLB history. The 2013 Tigers did it in 114 on their way to an MLB record 1,428 for the season.
REHAB REPORT: OF Wil Myers (broken right wrist) was chased inside by rain in Port Charlotte but hit in the cages. He will work out at the Trop today and head to Triple A, with plans to work out Thursday and Friday then start a rehab assignment as soon as Sunday.
MISCELLANY: LHP Erik Bedard and RHP Juan Carlos Oviedo officially cleared release waivers and are free to sign with any team. … With Jason Hammel starting for Oakland, Tuesday was the 65th time a former Tampa Bay pitcher faced the Rays; they were 34-30. … Oakland's 18 runners left on Monday tied the Rays record for an opponent.