ST. PETERSBURG — Jeremy Hellickson, the Rays' top prospect, said he got chills Saturday night when he found out he would be making his big-league debut tonight against the Twins.
Then, after a flurry of phone calls to family members and an early morning flight from Pawtucket, R.I., Hellickson watched from the clubhouse as the Rays beat the first-place Yankees 3-0 in front of a sellout crowd.
And it was James Shields who stole the show with his 71/3 shutout innings.
"It's definitely going to be a tough act to follow," Hellickson said, smiling. "But I'm ready."
Hellickson, 23, was calm facing the throng of reporters and cameras Sunday and plans to be the same way tonight. He has had a great season with Triple-A Durham, going 12-3 with a 2.45 ERA, and starting the Futures Game, which features the game's top prospects and is part of the All-Star Game festivities.
And though Hellickson will be making just one start — giving the rest of Tampa Bay's rotation an extra day of rest — before returning to Durham, the Rays are excited to see what the hard-throwing right-hander can do.
"He's going to be a major-league pitcher for many years, and he's going to be a big part of our future," manager Joe Maddon said. "We just get a chance to get a glimpse of the future a bit."
Maddon believes Hellickson will do well because of his makeup and stuff.
"He has the mentality to handle (his debut) and shouldn't be fazed by all the hype," starter Jeff Niemann said.
Hellickson, a fourth-round pick in 2005, said his parents plan to drive — yes, drive — down from Iowa for the game. After tonight, Hellickson doesn't know what will happen. The Rays could choose to bring him back up and use him as a reliever.
"I'm sure it would be a little bit of an adjustment I'd have to make," Hellickson said. "But I'm perfectly fine with doing that."