Rays clear room for Jeremy Hellickson’s return by shifting Erik Bedard to the bullpen

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After posting a 4.95 ERA in 15 starts for the Rays veteran starter Erik Bedard has been shifted to the bullpen to clear a rotation spot for right-hander Jeremy Hellickson’s return from the disabled list.

Hellickson has been recovering from January elbow surgery and made six minor-league rehab starts. He really struggled in five outings at Triple-A, going 1-4 with a 7.55 ERA, but Hellickson’s most recent start there was semi-decent and apparently the Rays are convinced he’s ready to start for them Tuesday against the Royals.

Hellickson won the Rookie of the Year award in 2011 and followed that up with an equally strong 2012, but he had a 5.17 ERA in 32 starts last season and has been anything but impressive rehabbing in the minors. Tampa Bay had the ability to activate him from the disabled list and option him to the minors, but is choosing not to do so.

Sandy Koufax to be honored with statue at Dodger Stadium

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Bill Shaikin of the Los Angeles Times reports that Hall of Fame pitcher Sandy Koufax will be honored with a statue at Dodger Stadium, expected to be unveiled in 2020. Dodger Stadium will be undergoing major renovations, expected to cost around $100 million, after the season. Koufax’s statue will go in a new entertainment plaza beyond center field. The current statue of Jackie Robinson will be moved into the same area.

Koufax, 83, had a relatively brief career, pitching parts of 12 seasons in the majors, but they were incredible. He was a seven-time All-Star who won the National League Cy Young Award three times (1963, ’65-66) and the NL Most Valuable Player Award once (’63). He contributed greatly to the ’63 and ’65 championship teams and authored four no-hitters, including a perfect game in ’65.

Koufax was also influential in other ways. As Shaikin notes, Koufax refused to pitch Game 1 of the 1965 World Series to observe Yom Kippur. It was an act that would attract national attention and turn Koufax into an American Jewish icon.

Ahead of the 1966 season, Koufax and Don Drysdale banded together to negotiate against the Dodgers, who were trying to pit the pitchers against each other. They sat out spring training, deciding to use their newfound free time to sign  on to the movie Warning Shot. Several weeks later, the Dodgers relented, agreeing to pay Koufax $125,000 and Drysdale $110,000, which was then a lot of money for a baseball player. It would be just a few years later that Curt Flood would challenge the reserve clause. Koufax, Drysdale, and Flood helped the MLB Players Association, founded in 1966, gain traction under the leadership of Marvin Miller.