ST. PETERSBURG — Rays right-hander Jeremy Hellickson appeared as calm and composed as a big-league veteran during his rookie season, containing his emotions like he did opposing offenses.
But Hellickson, 24, admitted he was pumped when he found out Monday he was named the American League's rookie of the year, an overwhelming choice by the Baseball Writers Association of America.
He's the second Ray to win the award, joining third baseman Evan Longoria, who won in 2008.
"I was very, very excited," Hellickson said. "It's something that I really wanted to win, and there were three, four other guys that I felt were just as deserving. So it's definitely very exciting."
Hellickson was first on 17 of the 28 ballots, which were submitted by two writers in each AL city. He amassed 102 points, topping Angels first baseman Mark Trumbo (63) and Royals first baseman Eric Hosmer (38). Yankees right-hander Ivan Nova finished fourth and Mariners second baseman Dustin Ackley fifth.
"There was no wrong choice," Hellickson said.
But Hellickson proved the best one, having led all major-league rookies in ERA (2.95), innings (189) and opponents' batting average (.210). He picked up 13 wins while pitching in the AL East and was undefeated in five consecutive starts against division rivals in September to help the Rays claim the wild card.
The Rays offered congratulations on Twitter, with manager Joe Maddon saying, "We are all very proud of you," and lefty David Price tweeting, "Helly is a beast!"
Hellickson and the Rays feel he can be even better.
"Jeremy was a big part of our success in 2011, he was able to make adjustments on the fly which is extremely difficult for someone in their first year," executive VP Andrew Friedman said. "The funny thing is, as good as he was in 2011, I think the arrow is pointing up, and I'm excited about what he brings to us in future years."
Hellickson said he made some adjustments throughout the year, including improving at holding runners and making some of his pitches better. While he had to deal with a weird schedule, once going 14 days between starts as the Rays tried to conserve his innings, Hellickson said it actually helped him remain healthy.
Hellickson becomes the first starting pitcher to claim the AL rookie of the year honors since Tigers right-hander Justin Verlander in 2006.
"If I am half as successful as he is right now in five years, I'll be happy," Hellickson said.
Hellickson could have easily had several more wins with more help from the Rays offense but received one or no runs of support in nine of his 10 losses. The Rays were shut out in five of Hellickson's starts.
"I feel like I had a pretty good year, but I felt like there were a few games there that definitely got a way from me that I know I could have pitched better in," Hellickson said. "And I could have had an even better year. I've just got to keep improving everything.
"You can never be satisfied."
Joe Smith can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.