FORT MYERS — RHP Jeremy Hellickson had a few goals for Monday's start against the Red Sox: establish his fastball and throw first-pitch curveballs for strikes.
He was encouraged after he did both during a sharp three-inning outing in a 5-1 loss to the Red Sox at Jet Blue Park. Hellickson allowed one run on two hits while striking out four.
"I'm very happy," Hellickson said. "My arm feels great. Everything feels good. All my stuff feels really good."
Manager Joe Maddon was pleased with Hellickson's velocity (91 mph) as well as his changeup and curveball. Of his 43 pitches, 31 were strikes.
"Helly was really sharp," Maddon said.
STANDING TALL: The way RHP Jeff Niemann's outing started, it didn't look good. He entered in the fourth and allowed a double to the first Red Sox hitter, C Jarrod Saltalamacchia, then a single to ex-Rays OF Jonny Gomes. But Niemann rebounded nicely, getting 1B Lyle Overbay to ground into a double play. That knocked in a run, but it was the only one he allowed in 22/3 innings.
"I felt all right out there," Niemann said. "It's a little bit different coming out of the bullpen, but overall everything went well. I was throwing strikes, making them put the ball in play."
NEED FOR SPEED: Maddon said Niemann's velocity wasn't where it normally is, a comment he also made recently about LHPs Jake McGee and Matt Moore. But Maddon said he's not concerned, that "they're just building into it."
SCOTT hopeful: DH Luke Scott walked across the clubhouse with a relatively normal gait and said he doesn't expect to be sidelined too long due to left hamstring tightness that forced him from Sunday's game.
"I've pulled hamstrings before; this is just tight," Scott said.
About halfway through a three-hour treatment session with the Rays athletic trainers, Scott said he felt good walking Monday morning. He acknowledged the Rays tend to be cautious in these situations and could want him to take a few extra days for his return, but he said in any case "it shouldn't be long."
GAME DETAILS: C Chris Gimenez had two of the Rays' five hits, including a double off the centerfield wall. "That's a hard place to hit it out," he said. Maddon praised the at-bats of DH Jack Cust (double, walk) and 3B Cole Figueroa, who knocked in the Rays' only run with a bloop double in the fourth. … RF Wil Myers went 0-for-3 and hit into a double play. … RHP Alex Colome was charged with three runs on three hits in two-thirds of an inning.
MISCELLANY: Maddon said 1B James Loney was excused from the workout in Port Charlotte on Monday due to allergy issues but should be ready to play today. … RHP Kyle Farnsworth said he will throw in his first game on March 8. … LHP Frank De Los Santos has not thrown yet due to some shoulder stiffness but should be ready soon. … Maddon said all players will have Wednesday off, the first of three scheduled off days this spring.
Times staff writer Marc Topkin contributed to this report. Joe Smith can be reached at [email protected]