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Thursday, Nov 27, 2014
Rays

Rays notebook: Hellickson looks to atone after letting one slip away

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Tribune staff

— In a rare display of anger, Rays RHP Jeremy Hellickson muttered a few choice words to himself as he walked out of the clubhouse Sunday after taking the loss against the Yankees in a game that turned on a two-out walk in the fifth inning to Stephen Drew.

The Rays were leading 1-0 at the time and Hellickson had yet to allow a hit. The next batter, Martin Prado, ended the no-hitter with a double and the Yankees were on their way to a 4-2 victory.

“Last game was tough for me to swallow,” Hellickson said Friday. “I was almost perfect for 42⁄3 and it fell apart, but it felt like all the pitches I threw were good and where I wanted. Just couldn’t get out of that inning. I think command is finally coming back to me.”

Hellickson had won his two starts prior to facing the Yankees. He felt he had turned the corner this season, where arm strength and command finally met.

Hellickson, who faces the Blue Jays this afternoon, didn’t view Sunday’s loss as a step back in the progress he’s made since returning from offseason elbow surgery. He just felt the game turned on two at-bats during that inning — the walk to Drew and a two-run single by Brett Gardner that followed Prado’s double. Gardner’s hit came on a change-up.

“I don’t know if it was the right pitch or not but it was where I wanted,” Hellickson said. “I don’t know, I got to forget about that and worry about these guys.”

Hellickson has pitched well against the Jays during his career. He’s 5-3 lifetime in 12 starts and 3-2 with a 3.64 ERA in seven starts at Rogers Centre. He faced the Jays six times last season and was 2-1 — 1-1 in Toronto.

Today will be Hellickson’s seventh major-league start during a season that was delayed for more than three months because of the surgery.

“It’s feeling good,” Hellickson said of his elbow. “I think the biggest thing is the recovery part (after each start) is getting a lot easier. It’s feeling a lot better the day after and on bullpen days. I’m not really worried about it anymore.”

Casali’s big chance

C Ryan Hanigan (left oblique strain) began his minor-league rehab assignment Friday at Single-A Charlotte, which means the Rays could be close to getting their front-line catcher back. That also means less playing time for rookie Curt Casali once Hanigan returns.

“We’ll see how it goes the rest of the way,” Casali said. “I’m here right now. I think I’m here longer than most people expected, including myself. It’s been the time of my life. It really has been. I’m just trying to enjoy every moment of it, and the fact I’m getting to play a little more now is even more enjoyable for me.”

A sore left knee kept Jose Molina out of the lineup Friday. As a result, Casali made his fourth straight start.

Casali, who has played in 21 games since making his major-league debut July 21 at Minnesota, said working with Molina has helped him become a better game-caller.

“In terms of calling the game, recognizing what hitters are thinking in certain counts and sometimes doing the exact opposite of what I would do to catch them off balance,” Casali said.

Price vs. Cobb, a look back

According to Elias, the Rays became the third team since 1900 to win a game on one hit or fewer without drawing a walk and that hit not being a home run, joining the 1906 Cubs and 1906 White Sox.

LF Brandon Guyer became the first player since Arizona’s Luis Gonzalez in 2004 to hit a triple for his team’s only hit and the last player to do it in a victory since Bobby Young of the Browns in 1952.

Noteworthy

OF David DeJesus (left hand fracture) was 1-for-2 on Friday for Single-A Charlotte. He has three hits in seven at-bats during the first two games of his minor-league rehab stint. Hanigan was 2-for-3 for the Stone Crabs in the first game of his rehab. ... Manager Joe Maddon said Molina is expected to return to the lineup this afternoon. ... Double-A Montgomery’s Kris Russell was named Southern League trainer of the year and Single-A Bowling Green’s Nick Flynn was named Midwestern League trainer of the year.

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