D-backs’ Hellickson shows no signs of dead arm

Jeremy Hellickson went 4-1/3 innings Saturday and allowed three runs and eight hits to the Kansas City Royals.

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — Chip Hale earlier this spring likened Picasso’s art to pitcher Jeremy Hellickson’s ability to paint the corners of the strike zone. Hellickson hasn’t exactly lived up to that combination of compliment and cliche, yet the Diamondbacks continued to express confidence in the second pitcher they named to the 2015 rotation.

After missing his last scheduled start because of a dead arm, Hellickson made his first start in 10 days and in 4 1/3 innings allowed eight hits, three earned runs and struck out three in a 10-5 loss to the Kansas City Royals.

"I’d like to not give up as many hits," Hellickson said afterward. "The good thing is not too many of them were hard hit. The curveball still has got a ways to go, but I think the fastball and fastball command is pretty much where I want it."

More importantly before the season has begins, the dead arm wasn’t an issue.

"Just kind of one of those things where spring is too long and I was at 70 pitches already," he said. "I just threw 75 today and 90 next time, and I’ll be right where I need to be."

Hellickson said the issue was never thought to be serious. He just needed rest, and because the D-backs have so many pitchers fighting for starting spots, the team didn’t mind freeing up a few innings for others. Hellickson expects to put together a 90-pitch outing before the spring is over, easily making him stretched out enough to go into the regular season without limitation.

The health issues aside, Hellickson believes he’s in a good place.

For periods on Saturday afternoon, he displayed exceptional control, placing many of his strikes on the edges of the zone. Batters still had their fair share of success in putting balls in play — usually on the ground.

For the spring, Hellickson has pitched 12 innings and given up a team-high 20 hits to go with eight earned runs. 

Hale is seriously considering splitting up Hellickson and Opening Day starter Josh Collmenter in the rotation. Their similar styles could be staggered with a power arm, likely that of Rubby De La Rosa, in between, Hale said.

"He relies on his control and all his pitches," Hale said of Hellickson. "So if he’s not throwing the ball where he wants to, it’s tough for him. We look for him to harness that control. We don’t expect him to be a 95-mile per hour pitcher."

Follow Kevin Zimmerman on Twitter