ST. PETERSBURG - The Tampa Bay Rays have found ways during the past two seasons to give Jeremy Hellickson rest between starts. Not so this year, and the Rays are hoping that might be the root of Hellickson's struggles.
The Rays optioned Hellickson to Class A Port Charlotte before Tuesday's game with the visiting Angels. The Stone Crabs' season ends Sunday, and Hellickson can rejoin the Rays in early September.
Rays manager Joe Maddon said Hellickson will not pitch for the Stone Crabs but will throw a bullpen session this week.
“He's well physically, we just thought giving him a little bit of a break will be very important right now,” Maddon said. “Obviously, the more recent performances have not been great. The fact that he is not injured, we felt the next best thing to do is to give him a little bit of a break.”
Hellickson left the clubhouse before the announcement was made and did not respond to a message from the Tribune seeking comment.
Left-hander Jeff Beliveau was recalled from Triple-A Durham to join the bullpen.
Hellickson is scheduled to start Saturday against the A's in Oakland. Maddon said that start will be covered by a pitcher within the organization.
Hellickson, 10-8 with a 5.21 ERA, is 0-5 with a 9.00 ERA in his past six outings. He has failed to reach the fifth inning in each of those five losses.
Maddon said Hellickson's problems are not physical.
“I'm very confident he is not hiding an injury,” Maddon said.
Hellickson was skipped several times during the 2011 season. He also benefited from the mid-summer six-man rotation. Last season, Hellickson missed a pair of starts when he was placed on the disabled list with shoulder inflammation.
Hellickson's 27 starts are the most on the staff. He is the only member of the rotation to not land on the DL or skip a start.
“The one thing we've been able to do with Helly (in the past) is give him a rest, and if you look at the rest of the staff this year, they've been rested through injury, which regardless is still going to benefit us the rest of the year,” Maddon said before the move was announced. “Helly is the one guy we have to be creative with moving forward.”