Leagues : : Story
Monday, August 02, 2010

Hellickson Making MLB Debut for Rays

Jim Ecker        
Jeremy Hellickson began pitching in Perfect Game events in the spring of 2003 when he was 15 years old. Two years later, our scouts called him “Maybe the best pitcher in high school baseball. In fact, we think he is.”
Now Hellickson is taking his talents to the biggest stage of all.
Hellickson, 23, is scheduled to make his Major League debut as the starting pitcher for the Tampa Bay Rays tonight in a home game against the Minnesota Twins at Tropicana Field (7:10 p.m., ET). It’s a spot start to give the Rays’ regular pitchers an extra day of rest and he might return to the minor leagues when it’s over, but he’s got a chance to make an impression in the thick of the American League pennant race.
“Historically, our guys have pitched well with an extra day’s rest,” Tampa Bay Manager Joe Maddon told MLB.com. “Having a guy like Hellickson permits you to do it. If you don’t have Hellickson, you probably don’t do it, but we can.”
Hellickson, from Des Moines, Iowa, was selected by the Rays in the fourth round of the 2005 draft. He had already signed with LSU, but decided to skip college and began his pro career that summer.
He’s spent parts of six years in the minor leagues, compiling an overall mark of 49-16 with a 2.66 ERA, and he’s sparkled this season for the Triple-A Durham Bulls with  a 12-3 record and 2.45 ERA. He leads the International League in wins, ERA and strikeouts (123).
Tampa Bay, which trails the Yankees by only one game in the AL East, has a strong pitching staff, which has kept Hellickson in the minor leagues until now. Maddon said Hellickson will “probably not” stay with the Rays after tonight’s game, but did not rule it out.
Hellickson was the winning pitcher for the U.S. Team in the All-Star Futures Game last month in Anaheim, Calif. And last year, he was named the MVP of the Triple-A National Championship Game after pitching five scoreless innings.
Hellickson, a 6-1, 185-pound right-hander, said after the Futures Game that he’d be happy to fill any role with Tampa Bay this year, whether it’s in the starting rotation or bullpen. “I’ll do whatever they want,” he said then. “If it’s coming out of the bullpen to eat up innings or to come in for a big spot, I just want to be there.”
Now he is, at least temporarily.
“I’m really eagerly looking forward to this,” said Maddon. “We know his stuff is good. He’s been pitching well. He’s going to be a Major League pitcher for many years. He’s going to be a big part of our future. We get a chance to get a glimpse of the future a bit.”
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