Jeremy Hellickson out until May following elbow surgery

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Rays right-hander Jeremy Hellickson is expected to miss the first 6-8 weeks of the season after undergoing arthroscopic elbow surgery.

Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times reports that Hellickson had surgery last week to remove “loose bodies” from his elbow and the Rays are hoping he’ll be ready in mid-to-late May.

He struggled last season, following up his Rookie of the Year-winning 2011 campaign and similarly strong 2012 by posting an ugly 5.27 ERA and being demoted from the starting rotation, but Topkin notes that Hellickson and the Rays repeatedly insisted that he was healthy as recently as last month.

Hellickson’s injury could open the door for top prospect Jake Odorizzi to step into the Rays’ rotation full time two years after Tampa Bay acquired him from Kansas City in the James Shields trade.