This is why pitching depth is so important. Marc Topkin reports that Jeremy Hellickson has undergone arthroscopic surgery on his right elbow and will be out until at least mid-May. Hellickson felt discomfort during a bullpen session in the past few days and was rushed to St. Petersburg, where Rays team doctor Koco Eaton performed the surgery. The Rays are expecting a major rebound from Hellickson this coming season, but if that does happen, it will have to be after the season is well underway.
Hellickson remarked that he did not think the elbow injury was a reason for his struggles last season, but at the very least the injury does provide him some time to relax and get his mechanics in tune. Last season, David Price was struggling before he got injured, but then he came back looking as dominant as ever. The Rays have to hope Hellickson can experience similar results. All the pressure will be on Hellickson to come back strong, but if he generate results in line with his performance in 2011 and 2012, he will be just fine.
To replace Hellickson, the Rays will not have to look far as Jake Odorizzi becomes the favorite to replace him. Odorizzi looked to be on the outside looking in for a rotation spot after the Rays elected to keep David Price, but suddenly a spot has opened and Odorizzi will get his chance. Odorizzi looked outstanding in his last several major league appearances to go along with a strong year at Triple-A, but the most important thing was that he broke through with his fastball command. Losing Hellickson is far from ideal, but Jake Odorizzi gives them the ability to be just fine without him and this injury does nothing to dampen the Rays’ World Series hopes for this season. When Hellickson does return, it will be interesting to see what the Rays do with the surplus of starters if Odorizzi is pitching well.