ST. PETERSBURG — RHP Jeremy Hellickson returns to the Rays rotation tonight ... again.
Hellickson, who made his season debut July 8, was optioned to Double-A Montgomery and then moved to Class-A Charlotte so he could continue pitching during the All-Star break and remain sharp until the Rays needed a fifth starter during the second half of the season.
“I think it was very beneficial to go down there and keep throwing. It was something I was for,” Hellickson said. “I wanted to go down there and work on my command a little bit, and I think I accomplished that. I felt good last game. I’m feeling good now.”
Hellickson will be activated this afternoon, and the Rays will make a corresponding move at that time. LHP Erik Bedard, seldom used now that he has been move to the bullpen, is expected to be the odd man out.
“It was the right thing to do, to send him out, keep him fresh, get him ready, extend him more and more,” manager Joe Maddon said. “(Tonight) he’s ready to rock and roll fully, and we’ll see how it plays out.”
Hellickson, who missed the first 91 games of the season after having surgery in January to remove loose bodies from his right elbow, said he’s tired of watching the Rays play while he sits. He also said he brought enough Carrabba’s and Outback postgame spreads at Port Charlotte, Montgomery and Durham during his rehab assignments and recent trip to the minor leagues.
“The way we’re playing right now, it’s tough to be home and watching those games,” he said. “I want to be a part of it and contribute.”
Peralta feeling better
RHP Joel Peralta is expected to begin a rehab assignment this weekend in anticipation of rejoining the bullpen Monday, when he is eligible to return from the disabled list.
Peralta left the team Tuesday and flew back to St. Petersburg after exhibiting symptoms associated with the chikungunya virus — high fever and joint pain. Peralta said all the blood work came back negative and he doesn’t know what caused the reaction.
“I’m feeling way better,” he said. “Everything came out normal, really good.”
Peralta threw a bullpen session Friday. He’s eager to begin his rehab assignment because he has not pitched to batters since July 12.
“I need to face some batters,” Peralta said. “I don’t like to go that far apart from facing batters. I would like to go somewhere and pitch one or two innings.”
Protect the pen
Maddon said there is a concern the Rays will expend so much energy to get back in the playoff race that once there, they could run out of gas.
He said the two off days in the first six days of the second half will help keep the team fresh going into August.
“I think the biggest problem is the bullpen,” Maddon said. “To win games, and as you’re trying to win that many, you can put some unnecessary overloading bullpen duress. That would be my biggest concern.”
Maddon said a lesson learned in 2009 was not to overwork the bullpen.
“That’s the one you empty the tank on, and that’s what you got to be careful with,” he said.
Maddon was asked before the game if LHP David Price and Red Sox DH David Ortiz should meet and clear the air after the war of words that ensued in May when Price hit Ortiz with a pitch.
“What did Don Drysdale say to the last guy he knocked on his butt in 1963? Nothing. He didn’t say anything,” Maddon said. “Play the game. Just go play the game.”
The rehab for RF Wil Myers (fractured right wrist) has progressed to where he can hit off a tee with a Speed Stik, fungo bat and his bat, swinging each 15 times. He’s also throwing at 120 feet. Myers still targets mid-August for his return. ... Former Gators and Bucs football player Brad Culpepper will throw out the first pitch tonight as the Rays hold “Chomp at the Trop” for UF fans. ... Claudia Williams will sign copies of her book, “Ted Williams, My Father,” outside the Ted Williams Museum before tonight’s game.