Rays send Jeremy Hellickson back to minors after impressive debut victory

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Stud prospect Jeremy Hellickson was called up from the minors to make his big-league debut last night, pitched the Rays into a first-place tie by beating the Twins with seven strong innings, and was optioned right back to Triple-A minutes after the win.
He’ll be back, of course, but it underscores just how much young talent the Rays have that they could take a one-night look at Hellickson and then let him return to Durham after an extremely strong performance against another contending team.
Now, in fairness Joe Mauer, Justin Morneau, and Orlando Hudson were all absent from Minnesota’s lineup because of injuries, but Hellickson’s seven innings of two-run ball were still plenty impressive. He allowed just three hits and two walks while striking out six, flashing a potentially dominant changeup in addition to a low-90s fastball and good curveball.
Hellickson ranked 18th on Baseball America‘s list of the game’s top prospects coming into the season and upped his stock even further by going 12-3 with a 2.45 ERA and 123/35 K/BB ratio in 117.2 innings at Triple-A. He’s the real deal and many teams would have had him in the rotation months ago, but the Rays lead the league in ERA and have a rotation full of 28-and-under starters, so for now the 23-year-old Hellickson will have to wait his turn back at Durham.

MLB now trying to get minor leaguers exempted from minimum wage law at the state level

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In recent years, Major League Baseball spent significant amounts of money lobbying Congress to exempt minor leaguers from the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938. They succeeded last year, as minor leaguers are now considered seasonal workers and as such are not owed minimum wage or overtime pay.

MLB is not yet done attacking minor leaguers. Ben Giles of the Arizona Capitol Times reports that MLB is trying to get Arizona lawmakers to exempt players from state minimum wage law. A proposed bill, HB 2180, is being sponsored by Rep. T.J. Shope (R – Coolidge) and would protect MLB from lawsuits, past or present, for not paying minor leaguers at least minimum wage during spring training. Minor leaguers already do not get paid for their work in spring training, so this is simply a preemptive maneuver by MLB to protect itself from potential lawsuits. As Giles notes, HB 2180 would enshrine the exemption in federal law in Arizona’s state statute.

Shope said, “I think it’s just trying to clear up what MLB considers a gray area on their blank. … My assumption is they obviously do have a concern, and are trying to protect a flank of theirs more in the pro-active sense.” Talking about minor leaguers, Shope said spring training is “essentially a tryout. You’re not on the team yet.”

Garrett Broshuis, a former major leaguer and one of the lawyers representing Aaron Senne, Michael Liberto, and Oliver Odle in a case Craig wrote about here, spoke to Giles for his article. Broshuis said, “It really is just unfortunate, because the people of Arizona passed this law to require employers to pay all workers a minimum wage, and these ballplayers are performing a service that is a valuable service, and they deserve to be compensated at least the minimum wage for it.”

Broshuis is seeking class action status in a lawsuit against Major League Baseball in Florida and Arizona, the league’s two homes for spring training. Arizona is home to the Cactus League, the spring training league for the Angels, Diamondbacks, Cubs, Reds, Indians, Rockies, White Sox, Royals, Dodgers, Brewers, Athletics, Padres, Giants, Mariners, and Rangers. A federal judge denied Broshuis’s request but he appealed and is waiting on a ruling.

MLB makes a ton of money during spring training the same way it makes money during the regular season: by charging for tickets, concessions, merchandise, and parking. Minor leaguers are part of the player population helping attract fans to the ballpark, so they deserve to be compensated for their work. That they are not is criminal enough, but to brazenly push legislation to remove any legal remedies they might have had is even more evil. MLB has been setting revenue records year over year, taking in more than $10 billion last year. The league and its individual teams can afford to provide a comfortable life for minor leaguers, but every day it makes the choice not to do so out of avarice.