ST. PETERSBURG — Manager Joe Maddon saw one thing from RHP Jeremy Hellickson’s last start that eased his mind about all those August starts.
“Better fastball,” Maddon said.
Hellickson was 0-4 with a 9.15 ERA in five starts in August before the Rays took him off the roster by optioning him to Class A Port Charlotte to rest his mind and arm. Hellickson returned with 5 1/2 scoreless innings in a win against the Angels in Anaheim.
That was enough for the Rays to juggle their rotation so Hellickson would face the Red Sox during the finale of this three-game series.
“I saw the ball out of his hand better,” Maddon said. “If that happens, there’s a greater discrepancy between pitches, which makes the other pitches better pitches. Better fastball, and everything off that played much better.”
Hellickson said the rest served him well, and he agreed with Maddon’s assessment of his fastball.
“I think the main thing was just a little more life to my fastball,” Hellickson said. “I had a little better command with my off-speed pitches.”
He said the velocity was the same as it was during August, but the movement was better, and that kept the Angels hitters off his change-up.
A talk with Dez
Maddon met with CF Desmond Jennings on Wednesday afternoon for what Maddon called a “reaffirmation” talk.
Jennings is not only struggling at the plate (11-for-63 in his last 20 games prior to Wednesday’s game), but he’s had his troubles in the field. He dropped a ball after a long run Friday in Seattle that put the winning run on second base. On Tuesday, he didn’t make a catch at the wall that also put the winning run on second base.
After the game, Jennings said he’s picked the worst time to play poorly.
“I just brought a couple of things to his attention,” Maddon said. “I wanted him to be aware of, one is he’s really, really good. No. 2 he’s going to be a great player in this league. Don’t ever worry about making a mistake, because I’m never worried about anyone making a mistake here. I wanted him to understand that he can impact this game for us possibly like no other player in our locker room can, based on his abilities.
“Just a reaffirmation of what we’re all about and understand that we all get our confidence dinged once in a while. We all do. Sometimes you just need somebody to remind you what you’re good at and how good you actually are. Hopefully that will help a little bit, because I do believe in him a lot.”
Longo back to fourth
Maddon moved RF Wil Myers up to second in the order Wednesday to split the lefties — LF David DeJesus and 2B Ben Zobrist. It also allowed him to move 3B Evan Longoria to the cleanup spot, a move Maddon said he might stick with for a few games.
“Historically we’ve been able to score more runs when Longo hits in the 4 hole,” Maddon said. “Let’s see if history repeats itself.”
The Rays averaged 4.67 runs per game in the 86 games when Longoria hit cleanup prior to Wednesday’s game. They averaged 3.53 runs per game in the 49 games that Longoria hit third.
RHP Jesse Crain (right shoulder strain) is scheduled to throw a bullpen session Friday. Maddon said he wasn’t sure if the next step would be a simulated game. Maddon said he didn’t believe Crain could join the Rays bullpen without another throwing session of some kind, a simulated game or bullpen. ... The game time for the Sept. 21 game against the Orioles has been changed to 1:05 p.m. and will be shown nationally on Fox.