ANAHEIM, Calif. — When RHP Jeremy Hellickson was optioned to Class A Charlotte last week, he was told by Tampa Bay Rays manager Joe Maddon and executive VP of baseball operations Andrew Friedman how much he meant to the team and how much he would be needed during the final month of the season.
And that is why Hellickson is starting tonight against the Angels.
“So we’re backing up our word,” Maddon said Tuesday.
Hellickson makes his first start since Aug. 26, when he allowed five runs in 2ª innings during the makeup game at Kansas City.
He said he doesn’t have anything to prove. He just wants to reverse his fortunes on the mound and pitch like he did in June and July when he was 8-1 with a 3.17 ERA spanning 10 starts.
“I just want to get back out there and help the team win,” he said. “The last month I didn’t even give us a chance to win.”
Hellickson is 0-5 with a 9.00 ERA in his past six starts. He was taken off the major-league roster Aug. 27 in an effort to give him a physical rest and a mental break. He returned to the team Monday knowing Maddon had yet to name a starter for tonight’s game. He was hoping he would get the nod.
“These last three, four days have felt like three, four months, so I’m ready to get back out there and try to get back on a nice little groove again,” he said.
Hellickson said he was told he was starting after batting practice on Monday.
To illustrate what kind of luck Hellickson is having this season, he was drilled on the left shoulder by a batted ball at the start of BP. He said the shoulder was still sore Tuesday, though his full range of motion had returned.
“I was pretty mad about it,” he said. “I’d just got back and been on the field for five minutes and that happens.”
Fuld toes the rubber
OF Sam Fuld became the third position player in team history to pitch in a game when he replaced RHP Josh Lueke and got the final out of the eighth inning of Monday’s 11-2 loss.
Wade Boggs in 1999 and Josh Wilson in 2007 are the others.
Fuld got Angels LF J.B. Shuck to fly out to center field. He threw five pitches, topping out at 88 mph.
“It’s a cool experience,” Fuld said. “(But) it’s coming at a bad time. It’s fun to laugh about, and maybe part of the whole deal is I loosened everybody up a bit. But aside from the fact that we’re losing, you still have to enjoy it. I think it’s pretty cool to say I did it, but I don’t want it to happen again.”
“I think once is enough,” he said. “It would be like riding a roller coaster for me. I have yet to do it. I’ll probably do it once in my life and say once is enough.”
When told he has a lower ERA than Sandy Koufax, Fuld said, “And I’m going to sit on it, too.”
After the losing streak reached five games with Monday’s loss, Maddon used a quote from former British Prime Minister Winston Churchill to describe the Rays’ mindset: “When you’re going through hell, keep going.”
Maddon said Tuesday he did not mean to compare the Rays’ struggles to the suffering in England during World War II.
“In a baseball sense, it’s a sporting sense where sometimes your team has difficult moments, and while you do you just got to keep pushing through it, that’s all,” Maddon said.
DH Delmon Young hit cleanup Tuesday in his first start since rejoining the Rays. Maddon said he did that to give Young RBI opportunities. ... On Monday, Angels RHP Garrett Richards became the third pitcher to beat the Rays despite walking at least seven batters. Edwin Jackson of the Diamondbacks, who walked eight during his 2010 no-hitter, and Dan Wright of the White Sox, who walked seven in 2001, are the others. ... The American League wild-card game is scheduled for Oct. 2. Both American League Division Series are set to begin Oct. 4.