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Tampa Bay Rays counting on rookie Jeremy Hellickson to pitch like a veteran

ST. PETERSBURG — Rays manager Joe Maddon insists he has to be reminded that RHP Jeremy Hellickson is still a rookie.

The 24-year-old looks like a teenage bat boy, but he acts — and more important, pitches — like an accomplished veteran. And with their season on the brink, the Rays hope he can deliver in Game 4 today.

"I feel ready," Hellickson said. "Would have liked to win (Monday), but we've won two in a row before. Definitely looking forward to it. And hopefully there will be a Game 5."

When Hellickson takes the mound, the Rays will be the 10th team in the modern era to start two rookies in a postseason series. If he is the winning pitcher, they would make more history because of Matt Moore's Game 1 victory, joining the 1927 Yankees (Wilcy Moore and George Pipgras) as the only team to get two wins from rookie starters in a series.

KYLE OKAY: RHP Kyle Farns­worth threw off the mound before the game and said his right elbow "definitely" felt good enough for him to pitch, and he warmed up late in Monday's game. He was not available Saturday due to recurring soreness. "Everything's fine," Farnsworth said. "It feels good." Farnsworth, who missed two weeks, then pitched in four of the last five games of the regular season, acknowledged he would likely have to be re-evaluated each day.

NIEMANN, TOO: RHP Jeff Niemann came through his Sunday bullpen session with no problems from his stiff back and said he would be ready if the Rays advance. "I feel great. Ready to do whatever's needed."

TIMING ISSUE: The Rays weren't pleased nor surprised to be given a 2:07 start time today by Major League Baseball and TBS, even though it is a potential clinching game. "It's not optimal from our perspective, but it doesn't surprise me, either," Maddon said.

BROAD SHOULDERS: Bench coach Dave Martinez, according to some reports, is the leading candidate for the White Sox's managerial job, which has made him a popular subject for Chicago media covering the series. (Also popular is executive VP Andrew Friedman, rumored to be a target of the GM-less Cubs.) Martinez said he was flattered by the attention and excited by the possibility of managing but hasn't talked to the Sox.

HAMMER TIME: 3B Evan Longoria is the Rays' nominee for the Hank Aaron Award, given to the "most outstanding offensive performer" in each league. The winners will be chosen from a combination of voting by fans (at mlb.com and team websites) and a panel of Hall of Famers, including Aaron.

MISCELLANY: The Rays have lost four straight home postseason games. … Longoria, who struck out three times, left without talking to the media. … Gates open today at 11:30 a.m. … The crowd of 32,828 was the Rays' 12th consecutive postseason sellout. … The Rays have 19 homers in their past eight games. … INF Russ Canzler, OF Brandon Guyer and LHP Alex Torres rejoined the team after working out in Port Charlotte and playing for the instructional league team Friday-Saturday. RHP Dane De La Rosa was told he could go home to California.

Tampa Bay Rays counting on rookie Jeremy Hellickson to pitch like a veteran 10/03/11 [Last modified: Monday, October 3, 2011 11:54pm]
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