We’ve seen some excellent performances from the likes of Michael Pineda and Zach Britton so far this season, so Jeremy Hellickson has somewhat flown under the radar among rookie starting pitchers in the American League. Not anymore.
Hellickson tossed his first career complete game shutout in a 4-0 win over the Orioles last night. The 24-year-old right-hander gave up just four hits — three of them singles — while fanning three and walking just one.
The rookie hurler needed 120 pitches to finish off the Orioles, which surpassed his previous career-high of 107 pitches from an outing against the Twins on April 28. Last night was the first time that Hellickson had tossed even more than seven innings in a game.
Now that he’s gone the distance, Rays manager Joe Maddon tells Marc Topkin of the St. Petersburg Times that Hellickson has merely scratched the surface on his potential.
“With a young pitcher like that, to throw a complete-game shutout can really catapult him into the next level,” Maddon said. “That’s the kind of moment right there that can really make Jeremy take off. … Because once you’ve done it, you know you can do it in the future and you know what it feels like to do it. … That’s a good way to teach yourself a lesson right there.”
Hellickson now sits at 4-2 with a 2.98 ERA and 30/18 K/BB ratio over his first seven starts this season. He hasn’t allowed an earned run over his last 14 innings.
Free agent first baseman James Loney has reportedly signed a minor league deal with the Rangers, per FanRag Sports’ Jon Heyman. The deal includes an invite to spring training and a $1 million salary if he makes the major league roster in 2017.
Loney picked up a one-year stint and starting role with the Mets in 2016, slashing .265/.307/.397 with nine home runs in 336 PA. While his numbers were down a hair from the .280/.322/.357 batting line he produced with the Rays in 2015, he provided the Mets with a necessary, if underwhelming upgrade over an injured Lucas Duda through most of the season.
The 32-year-old infielder is expected to have some competition at first base, with at least five other candidates in the mix: Jurickson Profar, Ronald Guzman, Ryan Rua, Joey Gallo and Josh Hamilton. Rumor has it that the team is planning on platooning Rua and Profar in 2017, barring any impressive breakouts or injuries during spring training, though Loney could still provide the club with some veteran depth and a decent left-handed bat off the bench.
Comments from an anonymous team official suggest that Rangers right-hander Tyson Ross will not be expected to join the rotation until May or June, per a report from Jeff Wilson of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. Both Ross and GM Jon Daniels favor a conservative approach for the 29-year-old as he works his way back up to full health after undergoing surgery last October to relieve thoracic outlet syndrome.
The delay is reportedly being implemented so that Ross will be have the strength and stamina to contribute during the stretch run. Per Daniels:
We would rather err on a little extra time up front with the goal being to finish strong, pitching in big spots, meaningful games down the stretch and hopefully past 162.
Ross signed a one-year deal with the team on Thursday after pitching through an injury-riddled season with the Padres in 2016. If all goes according to plan, he’ll slot into a rotation that includes Yu Darvish, Cole Hamels, Andrew Cashner and Martin Perez. The Rangers are expected to narrow down their fifth starter alternatives in spring training.