Rays shut out Yankees to complete three-game sweep

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Jeremy Hellickson allowed three hits over 8 2/3 innings Sunday as the Rays beat the Yankees 3-0 to complete a three-game sweep to start the season.

Hellickson was removed after walking Nick Swisher with his 118th pitch of the afternoon. Fernando Rodney took over and got a one-out save for the second straight day.

The Rays got another homer in this one from Carlos Pena. Including the grand slam in his first at-bat of the season Friday, Pena drove in seven runs in the series. Evan Longoria went 2-for-3 today and 6-for-10 with a homer and three walks in the series.

The Yankees’ on the other hand, got very little from the middle of their order. Robinson Cano, Alex Rodriguez and Mark Teixeira all went without an RBI in the series.

Hellickson, the 2011 AL Rookie of the Year, got roughed up this spring, finishing with a 9.00 ERA and 33 hits allowed in 20 innings. Many are expecting him to give up more hits this year, but he allowed just three — all of them doubles — in this one.

Mike Napoli and Rays have “mutual interest” in a deal

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Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times unloaded a lot of interesting news items about the Rays last night, including a report that the Rays might have “mutual interest” in a deal with free agent first baseman/DH Mike Napoli. The Rangers declined Napoli’s $11 million option earlier this month and owe the veteran infielder a $2.5 million buyout.

Napoli, 36, had a strange year in Texas. He turned in 29 home runs, good for 11th-most among AL hitters, but finished the year batting just .193/.285/.428 over 485 plate appearances. According to FanGraphs, his -0.5 fWAR was the worst mark of his career to date, but on the bright side, he should come cheap for a team looking to swap out their veterans come spring.

Of course, the specifics of the Rays’ offseason plan have yet to be divulged — or, by all accounts from Topkin, even decided on. The club could go the refurbishment route, changing out some of their higher-paid veterans for a mix of prospects and cheaper aging players; or they could opt for a full rebuild, which Topkin cautions against as it could have a negative effect on the financing of a new ballpark. Either way, the Rays figure to offload some of their bigger contracts this winter, and will need to decide if they want to retain Alex Colome, Chris Archer, Wilson Ramos, Evan Longoria and others before pursuing any other major free agents.