Hellickson set for major league debut on Monday

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As Marc Topkin of the St. Petersburg Times first reported, the Rays have decided to promote top pitching prospect Jeremy Hellickson for a one-time spot start on Monday against the Twins.  Whether he sticks around to pitch out of the bullpen remains to be seen, but it would make some sense.  For now he is simply going to provide the entire Rays’ starting rotation with an extra day of rest.

Hellickson, a 23-year-old right-hander, was drafted in the fourth round of the 2005 draft and has posted fantastic numbers at every stop in the minor leagues. 

He had a 1.09 WHIP and a 2.67 ERA over 111 innings at Single-A Columbus in 2007.  Then in 2008 he rattled off 162 strikeouts in 152 innings between Single-A and Double-A, walking just 20.  In 2009 he finished with an incredible 0.89 WHIP over 114 innings including a 0.80 WHIP over his first 57.1 innings with Triple-A Durham.  This year he has fanned 123 batters in 117.2 innings at Durham for a 12-3 record and a 2.45 ERA.  Needless to say, the kid is ready.

The Rays have been hesitant to give Hellickson the call this year because the starting five in Tampa has looked great and has been able to avoid injury.  Yes, even Wade Davis has pitched well enough to deserve his spot.  Hellickson will almost certainly be a factor heading into 2011, though, and he could have a slight impact in this year’s race to the American League pennant.  Onward, Rays.

Michael Cuddyer not shining in left field early in NLDS Game 1

Michael Cuddyer
AP Photo/Kathy Kmonicek

Mets outfielder Michael Cuddyer has already made a pair of mistakes in left field and he’s only four innings into the first game of the best-of-five NLDS against the Dodgers.

Leading off the second inning, Justin Turner sent a well-struck liner to Cuddyer which was quite catchable, but the ball clanked off of the veteran’s glove. Turner was credited with a double. Mets starter Jacob deGrom was able to work around the misplay, striking out Andre Ethier, A.J. Ellis, and Clayton Kershaw to close out the frame.

With two outs in the third inning, Corey Seager sent a fly ball down the left field line. Cuddyer took an inefficient route and the ball bounced about a foot inside the foul line, then into the stands, giving Seager a ground-rule double. To add insult to injury, Cuddyer ended up tumbling over the fence. deGrom, again, worked around Cuddyer’s mistake, striking out Adrian Gonzalez to end the inning.

Because he bats right-handed, Cuddyer got the start in left field over the left-handed-hitting rookie Michael Conforto against Kershaw, a southpaw. Conforto mustered only a .481 OPS against lefties this season compared to Cuddyer’s .698. Despite the batting disparity, one wonders how short a leash manager Terry Collins has on Cuddyer given his defense.

Mets take lead during NLDS Game 1 with Daniel Murphy’s solo homer

Daniel Murphy
AP Photo/Kathy Kmonicek
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Mets second baseman Daniel Murphy broke a scoreless tie in the fourth inning, belting a solo home run to right field at Dodger Stadium off of starter Clayton Kershaw. Kershaw threw a 2-0, 94 MPH fastball and Murphy didn’t miss it.

Both teams’ starters are pitching quite well overall. Kershaw has allowed the one run on three hits and a walk with six strikeouts. Jacob deGrom started off the game with six consecutive strikeouts and has struck out seven total while blanking the Dodgers on three hits and a walk in three innings.

Kershaw doesn’t have the most impressive post-season track record, owning a career 5.12 ERA across eight starts and three relief appearances spanning 51 innings. Aside from the homer, the lefty appears to be putting that notion aside.

Qualifying offer for free agents set at $15.8 million

Jason Heyward
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Eric Fisher of the Sports Business Journal reports that the value of a qualifying offer for free agents this off-season has been set at $15.8 million. That represents an increase of a half-million dollars over last year’s value.

This is of particular interest with regards to the big-name free agents, including Justin Upton, Jason Heyward, Yovani Gallardo, Jordan Zimmermann, and Jeff Samardzija.

Teams that make a qualifying offer to a player that ends up being rejected receive a compensation draft pick in the upcoming draft. The team that signs the player who rejected a qualifying offer gives up their earliest non-protected draft pick.

Free agents who had been traded mid-season aren’t eligible to receive a qualifying offer. This includes Yoenis Cespedes, David Price, Johnny Cueto, and Ben Zobrist, among others.

A player has yet to accept a qualifying offer since the QO system was implemented.