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Rays notes: Hellickson looks to finish job

Published:   |   Updated: May 11, 2013 at 09:32 AM
ST. PETERSBURG -

Tampa Bay Rays pitcher Jeremy Hellickson, tonight's starter against the San Diego Padres, has struggled holding leads of late.

The right-hander couldn't hold on to a 5-0 lead in Kansas City and couldn't protect a 7-0 lead against Toronto in the first game of this homestand.

In his past three starts, the opposing teams have hit .417 with three walks and a hit-by-pitch when Hellickson has pitched with the lead.

“It's tough,” Hellickson said. “You want to go out and throw strikes when the guys give me a lead like that, but at the same time, I don't want to throw it right over the middle. Maybe if I threw 95-96, I could do that.”

Maddon said he hasn't noticed Hellickson relaxing too much when he's pitched with the lead. As for a common denominator in the meltdowns, Maddon said there really isn't one.

“Keep throwing him out there. Hopefully we'll keep building leads and he's going to start holding them,” Maddon said.

Lueke replaces ailing Gomes
 
RHP Brandon Gomes was placed on the 15-day disabled list Friday because of a latissimus dorsi strain under his right arm. RHP Josh Lueke was recalled from Triple-A Durham to take Gomes' spot in the bullpen.

Gomes said he first felt discomfort in the area May 3 in Colorado, and it worsened each time he pitched. Gomes warmed up Thursday and said he would have pitched against the Blue Jays if needed even though he was hours away from going on the DL.

“I would have tried to figure something out,” he said. “I don't know if that's the smartest thing, but we would have gotten some outs.”

Gomes had a 5.40 ERA in 112/3 innings over 14 appearances. He struck out 16 batters and walked only two — one intentional. He has allowed 10 hits and seven runs.

“He's been hurting off and on,” manager Joe Maddon said. “This guy is such a tough guy, he really is. It's not just a rough exterior. He's just not putting on an act. This guy truly is that tough, so you got to be careful with guys like Gomer.”

Lueke, who spent last offseason working out with Gomes, is off to an impressive start to his season. He struck out 29 batters, walked five and saved seven games.

Lueke credits his success to being able to repeat his delivery, something he worked on during spring training.

“That and then being able to pitch kind of backwards to people instead of always starting off first-pitch fastball,” he said. “I was talking with (Joel) Peralta, and with Gomes as well, about coming in with lefties, starting them off with like a backdoor slider and righties not afraid to throw a split right out of the gate just to get them off the fastball. And also being able to work in and out and up and down instead of just raring back and trying to throw it.”

Jennings ailing
 
CF Desmond Jennings was not in Friday's lineup and could miss tonight's game as well with a minor groin injury.

“A bit of a sore groin. Nothing awful,” Maddon said. “Playing on our turf a lot, you have to be careful with him. All of our speed guys have had it in the past. Always try to be vigilant with them with their legs, especially when we're at home.”

Walk this way
 
On Thursday, DH Luke Scott was the fourth player in team history to end a game with a walk-off walk. The others are Miguel Cairo (Aug. 5, 2000 vs. Baltimore), Jonny Gomes (Aug. 16, 2005 vs. New York Yankees) and Carlos Peņa (Aug. 3, 2008 vs. Detroit). Rays closer Fernando Rodney served up that ball four to Peņa.

A fine wine
 
Maddon sent a bottle of 2009 Emilo Moro wine to Padres manager Bud Black before the game with instructions not to open until the 2013 World Series.

“That would be the Pad-Rays World Series,” Maddon said. “We'll see how it works out.”

Noteworthy
 
First pitch tonight at Tropicana Field is at 6:05 p.m., with a concert by Kenny Loggins to follow. ... 3B Evan Longoria participated this morning in the PNC Bank Miles for Moffitt one-mile run/walk at USF to benefit the Moffitt Cancer Center. … 1B/LF Sean Rodriguez and his wife, Giselle, will participate in the opening ceremonies for Autism Speaks Night before tonight's game. … C Jose Molina, who left Friday's game with a bruised right knee, is sore but able to play.

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