Bruised and slightly battered, Tampa Bay Rays starting pitcher Jeremy Hellickson is determined to feel good about himself before the All-Star break.
The American League's reigning Rookie of the Year is 0-4 over his last six starts heading into Thursday night's matchup at Cleveland. After starting the season 4-0, Hellickson has struggled to recapture the form that helped him to 13 wins and a 2.95 ERA in 2011.
"It'll be big for me to go deep into the game,'' Hellickson said Wednesday. "I've only had one really bad game in the first half of the year.''
A few weeks after the Mets raked him for eight runs in 3 2-3 innings, Hellickson suffered a bruised right shin on Saturday after being hit by a third-inning line drive from Prince Fielder.
X-rays came back negative, but Hellickson was forced from the game.
"It's (shin) pretty much 100 percent,'' said Hellickson, who missed two starts in June due to an inflamed right shoulder. "It tightens up a little bit once in a while when I'm walking around, but there's no pain. When it happened, I knew it didn't get bone, but I feared missing my next start.''
In his only previous appearance against the Indians, Hellickson allowed only three hits in seven scoreless innings at Tropicana Field, earning the win on May 29, 2011.
Cleveland is in second place in the AL Central and former Rays Johnny Damon and Casey Kotchman play for the Indians.
"It's a heavy left-handed lineup,'' Hellickson said, "and they've got a lot of guys who put the ball in play.''
An apparent stolen base by Alex Rodriguez was nullified in the seventh inning when home plate umpire Mike Estabrook interfered with Rays catcher Jose Lobaton.
Rodriguez slid safely into third with one out and the score tied 1-1, but he was sent back to second base, prompting an outburst in the Yankees dugout.
Lobaton said his arm hit Estabrook's mask while he was making the throw to third.
"Any time the umpire interferes with a catcher making a play on a runner stealing, it's umpires interference and no runner may advance,'' said fellow umpire Joe West. "It's a big play in the game and that's why the Yankees were over there screaming.''
Rodriguez may have scored from third on Andrew Jones' subsequent fly to right field. He ended up stealing third with two out, but Russell Martin grounded out to end the threat.
Like an All-Star
David Price, who will be heading to Kansas City to represent the American League after Tampa Bay's 4-game series at Cleveland, looked every bit like an All-Star Sunday.
"It's the best I've seen his curveball,'' said Yankees manager Joe Girardi after Price's dominating seven-inning stint. "When you add it with the other stuff – his fastball up to 98, his backdoor cutter and changeup – he had no-hit stuff today.''
Price yielded only four hits and two walks, striking out eight while throwing 116 pitches.
"He didn't make any mistakes until that pitch,'' said Yankees first baseman Mark Teixeira, whose home run leading off the seventh tied the score 1-1. "That's as good as I've ever seen him. He has great stuff and when he locates, he's almost unhittable.''
The Rays removed infielder Jeff Keppinger from the game in the top of the third, two innings after he was hit by a pitch from Yankees starter David Phelps. Keppinger has a bruised left bicep and is listed day-to-day. …Players from the Tampa Bay Lightning's development camp attended Wednesday's game. …The getaway matchup took 3 hours and 47 minutes to complete as the Rays and Yankees combined for 336 pitches. …Tampa Bay's Luke Scott struck out three times and is hitless in his last 36 at-bats, dating back to June 1.