Should the Rays be Concerned About Jeremy Hellickson?

By David Hill

Prior to July 31, Jeremy Hellickson had been on a nice run over his last ten games. After a rough start to the season, Hellickson appeared to have gotten everything figured out. He had gone 8-1 with an ERA of 3.17 in his last ten starts, which included a miserable outing against the Royals on June 13th when he allowed eight runs in 5.1 innings. However, after his difficulties to begin the year, the previous outings were a pleasant change.

However, the past two outings have been a reversion back to the Hellickson from the start of the year. Over his past two starts, he has gone 0-2 with a 9.00 ERA, failing to get past the fifth inning in either start. He has once again been inconsistent, falling behind hitters and getting punished when he has been trying to get the ball over the plate to get ahead. After showing an improved strikeout rate and a willingness to attack the zone during his excellent June and July, Hellickson has backtracked, something which has not been lost upon him.

"“They were pretty patient, I have to attack a little better,” Hellickson said, referring to Tuesday’s game against the Diamondbacks. “I just didn’t make very many good pitches.”"

Aug. 6, 2013; Phoenix, AZ, USA: Tampa Bay Rays pitcher Jeremy Hellickson reacts in the dugout after being pulled from the game in the fifth inning against the Arizona Diamondbacks at Chase Field. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Hellickson had always been a bit maddening, with the pure stuff that would make it seem as though he should be better than he had been. While he racked up wins and had a low ERA, Hellickson had issues getting deep into games and putting batters away. For a ten game span, he appeared to have fixed those problems, trusting his ability and going after the opposition. Yet, in the past two games, Hellickson has gone away from what has worked.

With Alex Cobb and Matt Moore due back soon, it seemed as though the Rays would need to choose between Chris Archer and Roberto Hernandez as to which pitcher to keep in the rotation. However, Hellickson’s recent struggles may cloud that picture. As Archer has been quite good over the past couple of months, including being named Rookie of the Month and Pitcher of the Month for July, his spot may be secure. As unlikely as it would seem, Hellickson may have to outperform Hernandez over the next week or two to retain his spot.

At this point in the season, the only thing that Hellickson has shone to be consistent in has been inconsistency. Yet, for the Rays to compete for the American League East title, they will likely need the Hellickson they had from June 2nd to July 26th. But can they count on having that type of pitcher?

At this point, it may be fair for the Rays to be concerned with Jeremy Hellickson. The Rays need him to get back to attacking the zone, to be the pitcher that he has proven that he can be. However, for some reason, he just does not seem to trust that he can be that guy, and it may be problematic for the Rays down the stretch.