Monday, February 19, 2018
Tampa Bay Rays

Rays' Moore eager to return to mound tonight

ANAHEIM, Calif. — LHP Matt Moore is eager to finally get back on the mound for tonight's start, saying the longer-than-expected month he missed with a sore elbow seems like even more.

"It feels like a while," he said. "This is the first time I've ever had to sit out and watch like this. Getting to the field earlier (for treatment) and seeing the games and not getting to participate makes a month seem much longer."

Moore is confident the elbow issues that surfaced during the July 28 game in New York are gone and that one so-so rehab start Thursday for Triple-A Durham is enough for him to resume pitching at the All-Star level he was.

Moore is aiming for a solid seven innings tonight under a 90-pitch limit. Manager Joe Maddon has more modest expectations. "Even if he went five and kept us in good contention and just looked right in terms of his velocity numbers and you see the good changeup and curveball," Maddon said. "I'm not expecting over-the-top command based on the fact he hasn't pitched enough lately."

RESTED, READY: RHP Jeremy Hellickson rejoined the team on Monday and will go back into the rotation Wednesday,

Hellickson didn't actually get much rest during his forced time away from the team, taking only one day completely off and saying the respite "wasn't very much fun, to say the least."

But he rejoined the Rays saying it could turn out to help.

"I don't think it was a bad idea to do this," he said. "As much as I want to be out there and pitch, and help this team win, to take a few days off and clear my mind, it might be a good thing."

Ultimately, it will depend on how Hellickson — who was 0-5, 9.00 in his past six starts, failing five times to get through five innings — performs when he gets back on the mound, whenever that it is.

Maddon said Hellickson can be a big piece in us having a successful month."

Hellickson said he would welcome the Wednesday assignment: "I'm ready to go."

Hellickson was optioned to the minors Tuesday but spent the time working out at the empty Trop, throwing a bullpen session Saturday, the day he was to start.

"It (stunk)," he said. "I wanted to be out there Saturday and pitch in Oakland. But at the same time I understood what was going on. I wasn't pitching good at all. They wanted somebody for the bullpen (Tuesday). I really wasn't too happy. It was not something I wanted to do. But at the same time I understood."

Hellickson, who will be arbitration eligible for the first time next season, said though he wasn't happy with the procedural move, he wouldn't turn it into a motivational issue, either. "It's not like a chip on my shoulder or anything like that," he said.

FOR STARTERS: The Rays announced after Monday's game that Hellickson would start Wednesday, chosen over RHP Roberto Hernandez, who was passed over Sunday but fared well last week against the Angels. Hernandez will be available in relief behind Moore tonight or Hellickson on Wednesday. RHP Jake Odorizzi, who also was optioned to the minors last week, is going back to Durham to pitch in the playoffs and then is expected to rejoin the Rays.

MISCELLANY:

The eight losses in nine games is the Rays worst stretch since the start of the 2011 season. ... The four stolen bases allowed Monday matched the season high. ... C Jose Lobaton had his first three-walk game. ... The Rays lost for the second time this season when drawing at least nine walks. ... Double-A hitting coach Ozzie Timmons joined the staff, which can also be expanded after Sept. 1. … Former Ray Al Martin was a pregame guest. … The Rays are winless in their first nine games west of the Rockies.

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