Tampa Bay Rays may use top pitching prospect Jeremy Hellickson as a reliever down the stretch

Top prospect Jeremy Hellickson has dominated as a starter at Durham but may help the Rays down the stretch as a reliever.

DANIEL WALLACE | Times

Top prospect Jeremy Hellickson has dominated as a starter at Durham but may help the Rays down the stretch as a reliever.

CLEVELAND — RHP prospect Jeremy Hellickson's future is as a starter, but it is possible his first stint in the big leagues will come in the bullpen down the stretch, manager Joe Maddon said Saturday.

Maddon said Hellickson, who is 12-3 with a 2.51 ERA for Triple-A Durham after pitching 52/3 solid innings Saturday, has the kind of stuff and composure that translates into pressure-packed relief roles, akin to LHP David Price two years ago.

"You saw he had a little taste of it in spring training; he came out with guys all over the place and he got out of it (against the Yankees)," Maddon said. "Very casually in a sense, he was not offended by the moment or overwhelmed by the moment. You're going to see the same kind of approach from him.

"Out of the bullpen, that's a possibility, and I would not be opposed to that at all. But eventually he's going to be one of the starters, there is no doubt. To get a taste, I think he could do it, and it would serve him well, and us."

FAMILIAR FACE: Indians RHP Mitch Talbot, an ex-Rays prospect, admitted his adrenaline was pumping a little more pitching against his former team. Talbot was acquired by the Rays from the Astros in 2006 and spent four years in the minors with Tampa Bay. He struck out six of the first seven he faced Saturday. "Coming up with that team, you kind of want to get them," Talbot said. "I played with most of those guys."

BOUNCE BACK: LHP David Price said it was nice to come up with a strong start after arguably his worst of the season, when he gave up seven runs against the Yankees. "In New York, that hurt a little bit so it was good to come back out there," he said. "Innings three through seven were good, the first two were kind of shaky, but it happens."

WADING IN: RHP Wade Davis enters today's start confident after picking up back-to-back wins for the first time since late April. The rookie said his recent success is partly due to better command, conviction and picking out what to throw at the right times. "He's mixing his pitches better, utilizing all his weapons better and not being as predictable," Maddon said.

BEAN BALL: SS Jason Bartlett said he's sure Saturday wasn't the first time he'd been hit by two pitches in the same game, but he was able to laugh off the placement of them. The second, which came in the ninth, hit him above a protective elbow pad, one he started using after getting plunked in Baltimore.

"It's funny, you wear all that gear and it seems to hit around the gear all the time," he said. But Bartlett has felt good at the plate, with two more hits making him 13-for-34 (.382) in his past 10 games. "It's something I keep working on and trying to find things that help me out," he said. "It's a process and I've got to keep making adjustments."

OPPOSING VIEW: Maddon knows Mariners manager Don Wakamatsu and INF Chone Figgins well, calling them "among my favorite baseball people." But he wasn't exactly surprised to see the confrontation between the two Friday after Wakamatsu pulled the former Brandon High standout for a lack of hustle.

"You're talking about two calm, really laid-back kind of personalities," Maddon said. "But then again, it's a volatile moment, and they've had their struggles. We've all been there; we've had our dugout moments ourselves."

MINOR MATTERS: Maddon said Durham INF Dan Johnson, who leads the International League with 28 homers, is "intriguing" and could help out the Rays before the season is done. … Rocco Baldelli was scheduled to start at DH for Class A Charlotte on Saturday, but the game at Clearwater was rained out.

Tampa Bay Rays may use top pitching prospect Jeremy Hellickson as a reliever down the stretch 07/24/10 [Last modified: Sunday, July 25, 2010 1:23pm]

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