Saturday, December 16, 2017
Tampa Bay Rays

Rays pitchers can learn from callups this season

However frustrating it may be at times watching the three rookie starters the Rays have been forced to use this season, there will be a future benefit.

Jeremy Hellickson knows.

Knows the issues of inexperience that have plagued Alex Colome, Chris Archer and Jake Odorizzi this season. And knows the immense payoff those pitchers can gain by doing so.

Hellickson went through it in 2010, when he got called up to make his first four starts in the majors, on a Rays team competing for a playoff spot. And he benefited in 2011 when, in his first full season, he won 13 games and the American League rookie of the year award.

"It was huge for getting me ready for the next season," Hellickson said. "It was really big in terms of getting my feet wet, getting acclimated to the way things are run around here, just getting out on the field facing big-league hitters."

Pitching coach Jim Hickey said the experience, even limited, can be invaluable, similar to the significant benefit players get competing in their first minor-league playoffs.

"That seemed to be worth almost a year of development because you can't re-create that kind of stuff," Hickey said. "I don't know exactly what it's worth, but for Jake Odorizzi to go into Fenway Park and perform the way he did under the circumstances that he had (in a spot start in the July 18 doubleheader), I don't know that he could spend another year at Durham if he would get that benefit out of it."

Manager Joe Maddon sees it two ways. First that Archer, Colome and Odorizzi (the last two are back in Triple A for now) are good enough now to still give the team a chance to win the games they are starting. And that it will definitely make them better in 2014, '15 and beyond.

"You look at the future of our organization," Maddon said, "and you see these guys, you can visualize them really becoming very good here."

Marc Topkin can be reached at [email protected]

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