When Do the Rays Go Back to Jeremy Hellickson?

By David Hill

This season has certainly not been anything that Jeremy Hellickson could have anticipated. Having had nothing but success in the majors, winning a Rookie of the Year award and a Gold Glove, Hellickson likely would have expected that his success would be able to continue. Even if he had some setbacks, things could not possibly get bad enough to the point where he would lose his spot, right?

Well…..things got even worse than that. After putting together a 23-21 record with a 3.02 ERA over his first two major league seasons, the bottom completely fell out this year. Although it was expected that he may regress, certainly nothing on the level of his 5.21 ERA was anticipated. His struggles to pitch deep into games and his rough last six starts (0-5 with a 9.00 ERA) caused the Rays to send him downto the Charlotte Stone Crabs, to “clear his head,” a demotion that he was not exactly thrilled with.

Aug. 6, 2013; Phoenix, AZ, USA: Tampa Bay Rays pitcher Jeremy Hellickson (center) walks to the dugout after being pulled from the game in the fifth inning by manager Joe Maddon (left) against the Arizona Diamondbacks at Chase Field. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Now, Hellickson is back. According to a tweet by Marc Topkin yesterday, Hellickson will be activated later on today. At this point, it is unsure as to whether or not he will be the starting pitcher on Wednesday, or if those honors will go to Roberto Hernandez.

Hernandez has already been bypassed in the rotation, first being demoted to the bullpen, then getting passed over on Sunday when the Rays started Jamey Wright, who had not made a start since 2007. Now, as rosters have expanded and Matt Moore is back in the rotation, the Rays have possible options, either with Hellickson, Hernandez and potentially Jake Odorizzi, who pitched well in his most recent start.

The Rays have traditionally been able to put their players in situations where they experience success. There is also a level of trust with Joe Maddon and his players, where they know that the Rays feel they will be able to come through. Perhaps that is what Hellickson needs at this point. After undergoing the most difficult stretch of his career, he may be natural that he has begun to doubt himself for the first time in his career. That demotion to Charlotte, while it made sense to allow Hellickson to clear his mind, may not have helped.

By giving Hellickson the start on Wednesday, that may send a signal to him that the Rays still believe in him. Despite the Rays insistence that Hellickson remains a part of their plans that that they are confident that he can still perform at a high level, it may be that Hellickson needs to see these words put into action.

Jeremy Hellickson will likely be back on the mound soon, toeing the rubber to start a game for the Rays. It may wind up doing more for his confidence if that start happens to be Wednesday.