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Tampa Bay Rays pitcher Jeremy Hellickson avoids injury in ugly outing

FORT MYERS — The hard-hit grounder by Twins C Joe Mauer that struck the top of RHP Jeremy Hellickson's right foot Saturday turned out to be more scary than serious.

"It got a little shoe — thank God," Hellickson said.

But other than avoiding injury, Hellickson couldn't take many positives out of a disappointing outing in which he allowed 10 runs on 11 hits in three-plus innings of a 19-4 loss.

Hellickson said though his foot was sore after Mauer's third-inning hit, it wasn't an issue. His execution was.

"I've got to make better pitches with two strikes," Hellickson said. "Probably half their hits were two-strike hits."

1B Justin Morneau did most of the damage, with two of the Twins' five homers and five RBIs. Hellickson said he was "just missing" and fell behind too much in an 84-pitch outing (49 strikes). But though Hellickson is 0-2 with a 15.30 ERA this spring, he and manager Joe Maddon aren't concerned.

"I'm not really worried," Maddon said. "I thought he had good stuff, the execution was not so good."

MEDICAL MATTERS: Maddon said CF B.J. Upton is still day to day and is unsure when he'll return, but he expects he'll be ready for opening day. Upton has gotten just three at-bats in a minor-league game since his on-field collision with LF Desmond Jennings on March 14, with Maddon saying "he's going to be behind regarding performance I would think."

MISCELLANY: Maddon said they will "probably" decide the fifth starter spot after RHP Jeff Niemann's start Monday. … Maddon said if OF Sam Fuld (right wrist) is not ready for opening day, there are several candidates for the extra outfield spot. Brandon Guyer, Jesus Feliciano and Jeff Salazar or utility players Will Rhymes and Elliot Johnson would seem among the possibilities. … LHP Matt Moore threw 42/3 scoreless innings in a minor-league start in Port Charlotte, allowing three hits and striking out six (69 pitches).

GAME DETAILS: C Chris Gimenez played all nine innings behind the plate for the first time and added a solo homer. … Rhymes played outfield for the first time in camp. … RHP Brandon Gomes, still trying to regain arm strength after offseason back surgery, gave up three runs and two hits in two-thirds of an inning. "I don't think he's sharp enough yet," Maddon said. … LHP Jake McGee gave up two homers in two innings.

Joe Smith can be reached at joesmith@tampabay.com.

Tampa Bay Rays pitcher Jeremy Hellickson avoids injury in ugly outing 03/24/12 [Last modified: Saturday, March 24, 2012 10:05pm]
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