Maddon upbeat about Hellickson, Niemann

FORT MYERS, Fla. — Tampa Bay Rays manager Joe Maddon continued to receive quality looks at the arms at his disposal. This time, right-handers Jeremy Hellickson and Jeff Niemann were placed under inspection.

Hellickson started in the Rays’ 5-1 loss to the Boston Red Sox on Monday at JetBlue Park, giving up one run and two hits in three innings. Meanwhile, Niemann made a rare bullpen entrance, following Hellickson by giving up one run and three hits in 2.2 innings. Niemann, who’s fighting to earn an end-of-the-rotation spot, was given the loss. It was his first of the spring.

“I thought him and Hellickson were both very sharp,” Maddon said of Niemann. “Helly was really sharp. Good velocity, good breaking ball, curve and change. I saw the same thing out of Jeff. The velocity is not where it normally is yet, but I saw a good curve ball and a good split and a lot of movement once again.”

Both could receive more work this season with right-hander James Shields’ departure to the Kansas City Royals in December. Hellickson finished 10-11 with a 3.10 ERA in 31 starts last season.

Meanwhile, Niemann missed ample time due to injury last summer and closed with a 3.08 ERA in 38 innings.  

“I’m very happy,” Hellickson said. “My arm felt great. Everything felt good coming out of it today. All my stuff feels really good right now.”

Added Niemann: “It felt all right out there. It was a little different coming out of the bullpen. But, overall, it went well.”
Maddon’s unusual off day
Maddon has quite the plans for the Rays’ off day, and they include a process with his health in mind.

The manager will undergo his first colonoscopy Wednesday morning, when the Rays are scheduled for a free date. Maddon, 59, said he will begin fasting Tuesday and envisions managing the team’s game against the Minnesota Twins in Fort Myers that afternoon. He will then travel to Tampa for pre-exam procedures, with hopes of riding his bike by Wednesday afternoon and enjoying a large meal in the evening. He plans to manage Tampa Bay’s game against the Pittsburgh Pirates on Thursday afternoon in Bradenton, Fla.

“It’s the first one,” Maddon said. “I’m very excited about this. Tomorrow is going to be kind of a fasting day. I’ve only heard about it, so it’s one of those life experiences that you must go through as a young male. … It’s one of those things you’ve got to have done. Why walk away from it?”
Luke Scott update
Designated hitter Luke Scott wasn’t in the lineup Monday after tightness in his left hamstring made him leave the Rays’ 7-2 victory over the Twins early on Sunday at Charlotte Sports Park.

Maddon doesn’t seem too concerned about Scott’s long-term health, though, citing the afternoon’s chilly weather as reason for the issue. Scott hit .229 and had 14 home runs in 96 games last season, his first with the Rays after coming over from the Baltimore Orioles.

“There was just tightness so there’s no real concern,” Maddon said. “You’ve just got to wait another day or two and get him back out there. It was just such a cold day yesterday that it tightened up a little bit more than normal.”
Wil Myers visions
Maddon has received many questions about promising outfield prospect Wil Myers this spring. However, he found a new way to describe his anticipation Monday.

“Back in the day, when I was a scout, one of the last tests I gave myself was to imagine whatever player I was going to put in on the draft, could I see him walking out on the field at Yankees Stadium, back toward me — with his name on the back — could I visualize that?” Maddon said. “It’s easy to visualize him doing those things.”

Myers went 0 for 3 with a strikeout against the Red Sox. He’s batting .235 this spring.

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