Over the past few years, the Tampa Bay Rays have displayed a knack for putting their players in positions where they can succeed. This philosophy, and the success thereof, is part of the foundation of the team – the Rays promote prospects once they have achieved success and tend to take those players a level at a time. That same philosophy has also helped the Rays take players such as Joel Peralta, James Loney and Kelly Johnson and get the most out of them.
That was part of why, when Jeremy Hellickson struggled through the end of August, the Rays made the seemingly surprising decision to send Hellickson down to Charlotte to let him clear his head. Hellickson was understandably upset at the demotion, and that move was likely a shock to the Rays clubhouse. Yet, that move appears to have been part of the Rays plan.
Since his return, Hellickson has looked like a different pitcher. After a strong start after his return against the Angels, Hellickson put together another solid outing against the Red Sox last night before he seemingly tired. In those last two outings, Hellickson has allowed only three runs in 10.2 innings, striking out eleven hitters.
However, the difference is not just how Hellickson has increased his strikeouts. He looks different on the mound, seemingly more confident in his stuff as he has been attacking the opposition instead of trying to pick up corners. His demeanor also appears to be different, as Hellickson seems to have an bit of an edge on the mound now.
The Rays may know their players even better than they know themselves. It certainly seems as though they figured out a way to get Jeremy Hellickson going once again.