Not long ago the Tampa Bay Rays brought up from Durham 23-year old fire ball throwing pitcher Jeremy Hellickson.
Hellickson's career has spanned the breadth of minor league baseball, starting first with the Princeton Rays in the Advanced Rookie League in West Virginia and has included every league (Short Season A, Low A, Advanced A, AA, and AAA) since then. Most recently he was brought up from the Durham Bulls for a day to give the starting pitchers in the Tampa Bay Rays rotation another day of rest. You can see his arm in action in this YouTube video recorded in May 2010 against the Dayton Dragons in AAA baseball.
Following Hellickson's debut with the Rays he pitched in three more games and now has a 3-0 record. Many were speculating that the Rays would simply go to a six-pitcher rotation to keep Hellickson on the roster. However Joe Maddon had other plans.
You read it correctly, today it was announced that the Rays are sending Hellickson down to Class A Advanced Charlotte Stone Crabs in the Florida State League. As the story states,
With no further need for rookie RHP Jeremy Hellickson in the rotation, the Rays sent him down to Class A Charlotte to start the process of transitioning him to the bullpen.
And while he's working out — and, just as important, not adding innings to his total of 144 — and learning how to warm up, how long it takes him and how much recovery time he'll need, the Rays will figure out some things for his expected Sept. 1 return, specifically the terms under which he will be used.
"If you're going to use him out of the bullpen, there's still going to be this unknown," manager Joe Maddon said. "You're going to pitch him, and then you're going to want to give him X number of days off based on how many pitches that he threw or how many innings that he went. You're not going to use him like everybody else.
"I would imagine he would do well with this, and then you're going to want to use him more often, but you can't. So you're going to have all these different little rules going on that you're going to create for him to benefit from his abilities and at the same time not abuse his arm."
Hellickson will throw enough that he also could step back into the rotation if needed.
Typically I wouldn't really care about a move like this. However this year, at this time of the season in the Florida State League, having someone like Hellickson around could become a huge disadvantage for the Bradenton Marauders.
Bradenton is now in a race with the Palm Beach Cardinals for the lead in the Florida State Leagues South Division for the second half of the season. The Marauders, who are now 1.5 games behind the Cardinals have 14 games remaining this season. Among those 14 games, 6 are with the Charlotte Stone Crabs.
The story about Hellickson says that they plan to keep him in Charlotte for a probable return to the Rays on September 1. While there the Rays want him working on transitioning himself into being a relief pitcher. Between now and September 1 when hopefully he'll be sent back to the Rays, the Marauders will be facing Charlotte for three of the six remaining games. Given how well Hellickson has done against Major League batters in running up his 3-0 record in the Show, his presence could only mean bad news for the Marauders in the final stretch of the championship run.
The Marauders face Charlotte next on Friday August 27, then Saturday August 28 and Monday August 30 (the latter being the final home game of the season for the Marauders). Here's hoping that Hellickson learns how to be a bull pen reliever early - say tonight and tomorrow night against Palm Beach and Tuesday through Thursday against the hapless Jupiter Hammerheads. If that happened then they could send Hellickson back to the Rays before next Friday night against the Marauders.
If I had Rays Manager Joe Maddon's phone number I think I'd call him and suggest that.