3/26/2014 7:41 P.M. ET
Hellickson still on target for late May return
By Bill Chastain / MLB.com
PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. -- Jeremy Hellickson had surgery in January to clean up loose bodies from his right elbow. Tentatively, Hellickson is scheduled to return to the team in late May or early June. For now, everything is going well for the 26-year-old right-hander.
Hellickson has been playing catch every other day with head athletic trainer Ron Porterfield.
"We've thrown six times and I still haven't felt anything," Hellickson said. "I'm pain free all over. I feel great."
Hellickson said he did not know when he will throw off a mound.
Jake Odorizzi recently earned the fifth starter spot, which came open due to Hellickson missing the start of the season.
Rays release right-hander Lowe
PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. -- A day after telling Mark Lowe that he would not start the season on the Major League roster, the Rays released the veteran right-hander on Wednesday.
Rays manager Joe Maddon told reporters on Tuesday that the Rays wanted to give veterans Lowe, Jayson Nix and Wilson Betemit an opportunity to find Major League jobs, which is why they were told they would not be with the Rays at the beginning of the season. By doing so, the players were able to look for jobs before rosters were set at the end of the week.
"I'm just talking to a couple of teams, just trying to get a feel for what's the best situation for me," Lowe said. "Obviously the ultimate goal is to have an Opening Day roster spot on a big league team."
Lowe signed a Minor League deal with the Rays, and his out for his contract was not until Friday, so he appreciated the treatment accorded to him by the Rays, who will relocate to Tropicana Field after Wednesday night's game against the Orioles.
"They kind of let me know ahead of time with the workouts going to the Trop and having a wife and a daughter here and having to pack up the cars and get there and turn around and kind of be in limbo, so I have a lot of respect for this organization," Lowe said. "The reasons they brought me in here and the way that they treated me, they're a class act."
Though Lowe has been released, the Rays would gladly have him play at Triple-A Durham to add depth to their organization. Thus, a chance still remains he'll stay with the organization if no other teams offer him a Major League opportunity.
"I mean, [the Rays are] definitely on the top of my list," Lowe said. "I don't think going to Triple-A is a fun thing to think about, but that's a reality possibly and I would see no reason why not."
Lowe, 33, had a good spring, making seven appearances and allowing one earned run in 10 1/3 innings.
"I've never had a spring go this well," Lowe said. "I was throwing a lot of strikes. I had good stuff. And I was using both sides of the plate with all of my pitches. That usually doesn't happen with me during Spring Training, so I came in and did what I had to do. I'm going out healthy and find out where I end up."
Given the way his spring went, Lowe was asked if the Rays' decision caught him off guard.
"No, coming to the field [on Tuesday] I knew [a decision] was coming up at some point," Lowe said. "Going through different scenarios in my head, I've been and seen this every year in Spring Training for the last eight years. So I knew that there was a possibility that maybe [he wouldn't make the team]. I always expect the worst, so if it does happen, I don't get caught off guard. And if something really good happens, I'm surprised. That was kind of my mentality.
"If it worked out, that was awesome. If it didn't, there was nothing else I would have changed. Nothing else I could have done. I just have a lot of respect for this team and they're going to do really well."
Maddon couldn't say enough nice things about Lowe on Wednesday.
"He is good," Maddon said. "And we've been seeking him for awhile and finally got our hands on him and right now there's no room in the end. But we'd love to keep him. Because we know that things are going to change, they do change, he fits in very well.
"We love his skill set. It's just unfortunate that there's no room at this particular moment."
Rays continue to bring Oviedo along slowly
PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. -- Juan Carlos Oviedo arrived to camp late due to visa issues in his native Dominican Republic. Now the veteran right-hander appears to be a long shot to break camp with the club.
Oviedo signed with the Rays prior to the 2013 season while recovering from Tommy John surgery to his right elbow, but he did not pitch for the Rays. The Rays re-signed Oviedo on Jan. 24 to a $1.5 million deal that can escalate to $2.9 million with incentives.
"Again, here's a guy coming off a severe injury," Rays manager Joe Maddon said. "He has rehabbed wonderfully. Our concern is we don't want to hurt him now. And if you start rushing people like that into a moment, you do stand a chance of hurting them. We don't want to do that."
Oviedo has pitched in just one Spring Training game, that was Sunday against the Red Sox when he allowed one run on three hits while walking one in one inning.
"Even the other day when he did not necessarily pitch well you could see the stuff," Maddon said. "And you can anticipate when he gets the feel down for everything.
"My primary thing here is not to hurt him. ... To say that he's going to be on the team is doubtful right now."
If Oviedo does not start the season with the team, right-handers Josh Lueke and Brandon Gomes appear to be the choices to fill out the remaining two spots in the bullpen. However, Maddon did note that "other things" were in motion.
Longoria helping to strike out cancer
PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. -- Evan Longoria is the Rays representative for the "Let's Strike Out Cancer" initiative started by Jason Motte of the Cardinals.
"All of the sales from those throughout the league go to cancer research, so anything that has to do with cancer and raising money for cancer, I want to be a part of," Longoria said. "So when they asked me to be the representative for the Rays, it was a no-brainer."
The Evan Longoria Strike Out Cancer Tee comes in indigo blue.
The website 108stitches.com went live on March 17, with 108 Stitches showcasing the "Strike Out Cancer" tees in each team's colors. Each is promoted by a different player who agreed to join Motte in a partnership that will benefit multiple charities. Each participating player has chosen a charity that will benefit from the T-shirts sales, and for each shirt sold, $5 will go to the Jason Motte Foundation and $5 to a charity of that player's choice. A full list of recipient charities will be listed on the 108 Stitches website soon, along with a photo of each player rep in his team-colored shirt.
"At the end of the day, it's about reaching people," Motte said. "Baseball is great and everything, but there are other really important things going on out there that affect a lot of people. Wearing these T-shirts shows people that they're not alone. They're not sitting there doing chemo by themselves where no one cares. People do care, whether it's friends, family or baseball players. There are people who this has touched and this has affected. This is something we're trying to do to get the word out there and try to raise money to help."
Bill Chastain is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.