August 7, 2012; St. Petersburg, FL, USA; Tampa Bay Rays starting pitcher Jeremy Hellickson (58) works out prior to the game against the Toronto Blue Jays at Tropicana Field. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Rays Notes: Jackie Robinson, Jeremy Hellickson, Luke Scott, Bunting

Sixty-six years ago today, Jackie Robinson made his debut as the first African-American player in the modern history of Major League Baseball as he took the field at first base for the Brooklyn Dodgers. It was an event that continues to resound throughout baseball, and we can’t even imagine what baseball would be like today without the bravery of Robinson. In honor of Robinson, every player on the Rays will be wearing number 42 each of the next two games, and while it will generate plenty of confusion for those for us keeping score, it will pale in comparison to the singling out that Robinson faced for the entire 1947 season and will us grasp at least in the slightest measure the significance of that unforgettable day.

Speaking of today’s game, remember that it’s at 11:05 AM, an annoying time that happens every single year for Patriot Day and the Boston Marathon. For Jeremy Hellickson, that might pose a little bit of a problem. Jim Hickey told Roger Mooney about the biggest question surrounding today’s game: will Jeremy Hellickson wake up? Hellickson usually wakes up at 11:00 AM for weekday night games, so it will be quite an adjustment- but yes, he will be fine.

Hopefully the early start will help the Rays’ bats make up for their late start to the season. Kelly Johnson is sure that the Rays will find that spark they need sooner rather than later.

Obviously we want it to be different and we’re confident that it is going to be different,” LF Kelly Johnson said. “Still it’s early, just one of those things you need something to spark it. We’re just going to have to find that spark somewhere, cause it is contagious. Both hitting and not hitting is contagious. It will be nice to get back to the plate relatively quickly compared to the way it’s going when you’ve got to wait a couple innings.”

With the Rays not hitting at all, Joe Maddon was criticized for not bunting in several key spots in Saturday’s game. Joe Maddon dismissed the point, believing that bunting would only make things worse.

“No, no, no,” he said. “Bunting does not ensure anything. That’s the misconception with that. The one thing that it can mean more than anything is that you’re giving up an out.”

In lieu of bunting, though, one thing we can expect the Rays to do is get off to the races on the basepaths. The Rays rank just 6th in the American League with 7 stolen bases at this point, and with the Rays grounding into way too many double plays when they do get runners on base, expect them to run to try to get runners in scoring position and to stay out of those double plays. James Loney stole his first base since 9/24/11 on Sunday, and expect to see more Rays get aggressive as they try desperately to push runs across.

The Rays’ offense took another hit on Sunday as Luke Scott suffered a setback in his injury recovery. The good news: the setback had nothing to do with his strained calf and it was actually a stomach issue that hopefully Scott will be able to get by tomorrow. The one-day delay isn’t too significant, but every day counts as the Rays hope to get Scott’s big bat in their lineup as soon as possible.

Tags: Jeremy Hellickson Luke Scott Tampa Bay Rays

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