Rays Notes: Jeremy Hellickson Makes Debut, Kelly Johnson Heads to the Outfield, Tim Beckham

By Robbie Knopf

Spring training has goten off to a great start for the Rays. For what it’s worth, they’ve gone 4-1 in their first five games, but more importantly everyone is getting their feet under them in advance of what should be an exciting 2013 season. Today a couple of big spring firsts are set to happen for the Rays.

Ben Zobrist, 2B
Desmond Jennings, CF
Matthew Joyce, RF
Yunel Escobar, SS
Luke Scott, DH
Kelly Johnson, LF
Jose Molina, C
James Loney, 1B
Sean Rodriguez, 3B

Jeff Niemann, SP

Niemann is making his second spring outing as he competes for the Rays’ 5th starter job, but in relief of him, Jeremy Hellickson will make his spring debut. Hellickson is lined up to be the Rays’ number two starter and they’re expecting big things from him this season. Hopefully everything goes well in his first outing.

The entire lineup is made up of players who will likely be on the Rays’ major league team in 2013, but the thing that particularly stands out is that Kelly Johnson is playing left field, something he hasn’t done in the major leagues since 2005. But the Rays are going to use Johnson in a much more versatile role this season, having him see time in left in addition to his natural position of second base, and while he’s going to have to shake off some rust, they believe he can be fine at his old position.

And in other news, Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times wrote a piece about Tim Beckham, and his article featured a few interesting quotes from Beckham himself along with Joe Maddon.

"“Just because my career has not gone as fast as some people thought it would, I’m not going to lack confidence. I’m not going to think down on myself at all. I know I can play for years to come. It’s just a matter of time. And I can say that with confidence. I know that.”“I think he’s at the point now where the things we’re saying to him are beginning to make sense,” Maddon said. “He looks great. … I’m really excited.”"

Despite all of Beckham’s struggles since being selected first overall in 2003, Beckham is only 23 years old and still has quite a bit of potential. Hopefully he can make some strides first in spring training and then back at Triple-A, and by the end of the season he will finally make his long-awaited debut in the majors leagues.