ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — Nearing an anticipated return to the Tampa Bay Rays’ rotation, Jeremy Hellickson feels good about his progress.
The right-hander allowed no runs, two hits and struck out two in three innings for High-A Charlotte against the Tampa Yankees on Saturday in Tampa in his first rehab start. Recovering from arthroscopic surgery on his throwing elbow since late January, he threw 38 pitches (25 strikes) and tossed 10 more in the bullpen afterward.
"Everything went good," Hellickson said. "I got my work in, threw everything. It came out good. I feel good today, too."
Hellickson said he’d learn the date for his next rehab start after a Monday bullpen session. He anticipates two more rehab starts, and he targets a late June return to the rotation, possibly in time for a June 27 doubleheader against the Baltimore Orioles at Camden Yards.
Catcher Ryan Hanigan, on the disabled list with a strained right hamstring since May 28 (retroactive to May 27), caught six innings Saturday in the same rehab game for High-A Charlotte. He went 1 for 4 had a two-run home run. On Friday, he said he anticipated three rehab starts, and he was confident that he’d come off the disabled list Wednesday when the Rays host the St. Louis Cardinals.
Hellickson, meanwhile, is pleased with how far he has come.
"I was trying to get them out," he said of his appearance Saturday. "I think just throwing the curveball for a strike was really the only thing I went into the game wanting to work on. I was treating it like a regular game."
KIRBY YATES HOPING TO MAKE IMPACT
Reliever Kirby Yates made his major-league debut Saturday in the Rays’ 7-4 loss to the Seattle Mariners at Tropicana Field, retiring all four batters he faced over parts of the seventh and eighth innings. He also struck out Brad Miller and Endy Chavez.
Yates was promoted from Triple-A Durham after much-maligned reliever Josh Lueke was designated for assignment after posting a 5.64 ERA in 30 1/3 innings this season.
Yates said he’s eager to help any way he can, despite the Rays’ prolonged struggle. A native of Lihue, Hawaii, he’s the first Hawaiian-born player in Rays history and the 39th Hawaii native in major-league history. He said he received 28 texts by the time he had reached Tampa Bay’s clubhouse after Saturday’s game.
"Whatever they ask of me to do, I’m on board," Yates said. "I like to win. Everybody loves to win. Whatever they ask me to do, I’ll gladly do."
PLAYERS REACT TO JOE MADDON’S 50-50 GOAL
Rays manager Joe Maddon revealed this interesting nugget Saturday: Following Wednesday’s loss to the Miami Marlins, he told his team that reaching 50-50 through 100 games should be the goal.
Certainly, Saturday’s loss made reaching that benchmark more difficult. At 24-39, the Rays began Sunday with the worst record in the majors. They must go 26-11 over their next 37 games to reach Maddon’s benchmark.
Sound daunting? Sure. Still, it provides some shape to the season, which Rays players said can be a positive.
"It shortens the season for right now," right-hander Alex Cobb said. "It makes us look at the importance of every game. You can look, like I said, at a 162-game season and see a game in the beginning of June and say, ‘Well, it’s not that important of a game.’ But when we look at it through that perspective, then (it’s) tonight, ‘We’ve got to win tonight. We’ve got to fight.’"
Added second baseman Ben Zobrist: "I’m not a big numbers goal-setter anyway, so I won’t think too much about it. Some guys might, but it definitely won’t be something I think about. I just try to stay in the present. I think that’s what these guys are doing. I’m sure that’s a benchmark he mentioned. But in reality, he’s not really thinking about that every day either. He’s thinking about what we have to do today in this particular play at the moment. That’s kind of what’s made us good in the past, so let’s stick with it."
BRANDON GUYER’S CAST TO COME OFF MONDAY
Outfielder Brandon Guyer’s cast will come off his fractured left thumb Monday. X-rays will be taken to study the progress of his healing, and he targets a return sometime in late June.
The Rays placed him on the disabled list May 26, after the injury occurred when he attempted a diving catch of a fly ball off the bat of the Boston Red Sox’s Grady Sizemore on May 25 at Tropicana Field.
Guyer has hit .262 with one home run and six RBI this season.
EVAN LONGORIA TO HAVE NEW ADDITION TO FAMILY
Saturday night, Evan Longoria’s fiancee, Jaime Edmondson, tweeted news that the couple expects their second kid in November. Their daughter, Elle, was born Feb. 20, 2013.
Longoria was in good spirits when the development was raised in the Rays clubhouse Sunday morning. Longoria and Edmondson hope to be married in winter 2016.
— Left-hander David Price, who’s scheduled to start Monday in the series finale against Seattle, said the Rays’ current struggle stands out among his seven seasons in the major leagues. Part of the pain has to do with his inconsistency, he said. He’s an underwhelming 4-5 with a 4.03 ERA this season. "It’s frustrating," he said. "We’re going through a tough time. It’s probably the toughest time I’ve been a part of in baseball. I don’t feel like I’ve had two good starts in a row."
— Catcher Jose Molina anticipates catching up with his six-time National League Gold Glove Award-winning younger brother, Yadier Molina, when the Cardinals are part of a two-game series Tuesday and Wednesday at Tropicana Field. Jose said Yadier will stay with him during the brief visit, but don’t expect baseball to be a topic of conversation when they meet. "We don’t talk about baseball when we’re together," Jose said. "We talk when we’re training. We talk when we’re practicing. But when we’re home or (have) free time, we barely talk much about baseball. We want to enjoy each other away from the game and stay away from everything. We just keep it simple. We just have a great time together."
— Longoria received a nice parting gift Saturday from Weezer, which held a postgame concert at Tropicana Field. Members of the rock band signed the third baseman’s drum head, which he proudly tweeted Sunday morning.