ARLINGTON, Texas — RHP Jake Odorizzi is the Tampa Bay Rays' newest strikeout king and he's not sure why.
He doesn't overpower hitters with his low-90s fastball, but he mixes his change-up, curveball, slider and the occasional cutter to pile up the strikeouts.
Odorizzi enters tonight's start with 139 strikeouts — the most among major-league rookies. His 10.20 strikeouts per nine innings is third in the AL and fifth in the majors.
That strikeout-per-nine innings mark is second all-time for a rookie behind the 10.42 SO/9 by Rangers RHP Yu Darvish in 2012. The two pitchers would have faced each other tonight had Darvish not been placed on the disabled list Wednesday with right elbow inflammation.
“I can't really pinpoint a certain thing, but it's kind of how it happened,” Odorizzi said. “I make a good pitch and they think it's a ball and it ends up being a strike or they swing through it. Once you get them in swing mode, I can move it around the zone like I do. It's kind of all over the place but it's in the zone. You have to be on your toes to swing.”
Two extra-inning games in three days led to an overworked bullpen and to the Rays recalling RHP Brandon Gomes to add a fresh arm. To make room, INF Cole Figueroa was sent to Triple-A Durham.
The bullpen picked up 142⁄3 innings in the three games prior to Wednesday.
“He's battle-tested here. You know he'll be comfortable here. He can provide length,” manager Joe Maddon said. “There's a lot of reasons why he fits.”
The move left the Rays short a bench player, and with CF Desmond Jennings nursing a sore shoulder after slamming into the wall to make a catch during the eighth inning Tuesday and with C Jose Molina not really a factor because Maddon seldom uses his backup catcher, the Rays' bench Wednesday basically consisted of INF Logan Forsythe.
“It takes our normal methods away a little bit trying to match things up in the later part of the game,” Maddon said. “That's the way it is when you play that many deep games, extra-inning games and you extend people as much as we have. You put yourself behind the eight-ball, and that's where we are right now.”
Good night for Helly
Lost in Tuesday's 3-2, 14-inning loss was another good outing from RHP Jeremy Hellickson.
Hellickson allowed six hits and walked a batter but threw six scoreless innings and turned a 2-0 lead over to the bullpen.
Hellickson, who made his 100th career start, was pleased that he put together back-to-back strong outings and that while he allowed base runners, he didn't let any of them score.
“Last year I think that was probably the biggest thing. If you got on base you scored,” Hellickson said. “And my first two years I think I had a pretty good percentage of guys left on base and I'm starting to get back to that a little bit.”
Tragic night for fan
Jay Wolf, 24, formerly of Tampa, was struck by a passing car and died at the scene after attending Tuesday's Rays game in Arlington. The Plant High grad, who was living in Austin, Texas, had attended his first Rays game at Globe Life Park.
According to the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, Wolf was struck by the car while crossing nearby Tom Landry Freeway.
“It's just an awful tragedy. I don't know the parents, but I have friends that do. We just want to send out our sincere condolences,” Maddon said at the start of his pregame news conference. “My goodness, it's got to be awful. Being a parent, a grandparent, it's a really tough day. So our thoughts and prayers go back to the Wolf family. It's an awful moment.”
LHP Cesar Ramos became the seventh pitcher in team history to walk in a winning run during Tuesday's 14-inning loss. ... RHP Grant Balfour, who pitched two scoreless innings Tuesday, took the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge on Wednesday afternoon. The challenge came from his wife, Angie. “Felt good out there,” Balfour said about doing it in the Texas heat. ... 3B Evan Longoria cut off his blond Mohawk. ... Rays pitchers struck out 65 batters in the five games prior to Wednesday's game. That's a team record for strikeouts in five games.