DETROIT — The question of who should represent the Rays at the All-Star Game could be directed today to manager Joe Maddon as AL manager John Farrell tries to assemble his pitching staff.
LHP Jake McGee appears to be the obvious choice, but obvious doesn't always work with the All-Star selections, so LHP David Price could garner some consideration.
“It's pretty close between the two guys,” Maddon said. “You got to look at David's overall first half. I don't know who's really been better. I don't know. We've faced a lot of good pitchers in the first half. He's got to be in the top five. And then McGee out of the bullpen, I don't know if I've seen a whole lot better than that out of the bullpen.”
Price leads the league in strikeouts (152) and innings pitched (131). He also is tied with Boston's Jake Peavy for home runs allowed (17) and is among the leaders in hits allowed.
McGee led AL relievers with a 1.21 ERA entering Friday night's game against the Tigers.
“I would ask, 'What are your needs? What are you looking for?' ” Maddon said. “One inning, one batter, obviously Jake's more used to that than David is. If you're looking for two innings earlier in the game, that might be David. It just depends on who you're looking for.”
Helly, Escobar close to returning
RHP Jeremy Hellickson (right elbow surgery) felt fine throwing Friday, one day after he threw 86 pitches in 52⁄3 innings for Triple-A Durham.
Hellickson is expected to throw a bullpen session Monday at Tropicana Field. He could rejoin the rotation as early as Tuesday, which would be his scheduled day to pitch. It also is LHP Erik Bedard's scheduled day to pitch.
“Everything looks like he's about ready to come back,” Maddon said.
SS Yunel Escobar (sore right shoulder) took ground balls Friday during batting practice. He is scheduled to come off the disabled list Thursday, which is an off day. Maddon said Escobar could get some minor-league at-bats next week, then rejoin the team when it begins a three-game series against the Blue Jays on July 11.
“He's feeling a lot better,” Maddon said. “He should be pretty close to that minimal time on the DL.”
Ramos on leave
With wife Melanie expected to have labor induced today, LHP Cesar Ramos was placed on paternity leave Friday so he could return home for the birth of their first child. Ramos could miss up to three days.
“The way that game played out (Thursday) night, it was the right time to send him home,” Maddon said.
Ramos pitched 31⁄3 innings in Thursday's loss, which means he wouldn't be available until Sunday. Needing a fresh arm, the Rays turned to LHP Jeff Beliveau, who was optioned to Durham on Thursday to make room for INF Vince Belnome.
Beliveau, who spent Thursday at the team hotel in anticipation of Ramos leaving, was eligible to return because Ramos was placed on the paternity list.
This is the second time this season Beliveau has been recalled twice during the same road trip. Beliveau has been up and down between Tampa Bay and Durham eight times during the past two seasons.
“I just know I got to be ready to pitch, and if I pitch I'm probably going to get sent down no matter if I do good or bad,” he said. “That's just how it works.”
Happy Fourth of July
RHP Grant Balfour celebrated his second July 4 as an American citizen Friday. The Australia native became an American citizen in April 2013.
“It's nice, you know, all my family — my kids and my wife — are Americans,” Balfour said. “It was definitely something I wanted to do. To be able to keep your Australian citizenship and have the American's is a nice thing, because it's tough to want to give up where you're born. ... I want to have that comfort of being a citizen like everyone else.”
The Rays are trying to become the seventh team in MLB history to reach the playoffs after being at least 91⁄2 games out of first place on July 4. ... The Rays signed 12th-round pick Braxton Lee and 15th-round pick Brian Miller. The Rays have signed their first 25 picks and 36 of 41 from last month's draft.