ST. PETERSBURG -- The Rays optioned RHP Jeremy Hellickson on Sunday to Double A Montgomery for the purpose of getting him starts until the Rays need a fifth starter, which would be July 29 when the Rays play the Brewers at the Trop.
Hellickson will pitch Sunday for Class A Charlotte then rejoin the Rays when they return hom from the five-game, six-day trip that begins the second half of the season.
“I wasn't opposed to it,” Hellickson said. “It's not too big of a hassle. I definitely need to keep getting work in. I was all for it
In addition to the four-day All-Star Break, the Rays have two off days during the first seven days of the second half. That will allow them to use a four-man rotation for two turns.
“It just made all the sense in the world to get him out there pitching more regularly, and I really anticipate after these two starts, I think he's totally game ready at that point,” manager Joe Maddon said. “He was fine the last time but I think this should really sharpen the edge up a little bit.”
Yuni from the outside
Fans received a Yunel Escobar basketball set Sunday as they entered Tropicana Field, and for those who didn't make the connection between hoops and baseball, Escobar showed them when he took an imaginary jump shot in the eighth inning when he ranged to his right to field a grounder then fired to second base to force a runner.
“It's something I haven't used a whole lot in the first half (of the season),” Escobar said, “but I think we're going to see it a little more here in the second half.”
Maddon said that would be welcomed.
“It was nice to see him be animated,” Maddon said. “This guy needs to be animated. He does not need to be this stoic,one-size fits all kind of a thing. He needs to be animated. He needs to be himself, and I love when he's that guy because he's going toi be play his best baseball.”
Escobar singled and scored in the second inning, reached on a fielder's choice in the sixth, stole second and scored on a single by C Jose Molina. Escobar was originally called out at the plate, but the call was overturned by replay.
Escobar said he has felt more energy since coming off the disabled list Friday.
“The 15 days off gave me an opportunity to refresh myself, to relax mentally and, obviously, physically, too,” Escobar said, “So I'm ready to it going for a great second half.”
Escobar struck out in the eighth inning for the first time since June 9, snapping a career-best streak of 65 plate appearances without a strikeout. The team record is 73, set by Toby Hall in 2003.
Happy anniversary, Jim
Pitching coach Jim Hickey celbrated his 10th anniversary as a major league pitching coach Sunday and was treated to a post-game beer bath from the team.
“It was kind of nice,” he said. “It was really cold, too.”
Hickey spent the first 2 1/2 years with the Astros after joining the big league staff during the 2004 All-Star break.
“So many other people are responsible for it, obviously good pitching staffs, which has been the case here for seven years,” Hickey said. “I'm the one who's blessed and privileged to be able to do that. It's not a thing a lot of people get to do. It's something you don't take lightly.”
CF Desmond Jennings missed his second game with a bruised left knee but said he expects to be ready to play Friday ... LHP Jake McGee returned from his paternity leave and replaced LHP David Price in the ninth innint to earn his seventh save ... The Rays rotation for the Twins series is RHP Alex Cobb, Price and RHP Chris Archer ... 2B Logan Forsythe has 10 RBI over his last 13 games ... The Rays turned two double plays in a game for only thes econd time in their last 55 games ... The Rays have won 22 straight series against the Jays at the Trop, the second longest such streak in baseball since 1969.