7/7/2014 8:30 P.M. ET
Hellickson ready to go for 2014 debut vs. KC
Rays right-hander has been working in rehab stints to regain command of fastball
By David Adler / MLB.com
ST. PETERSBURG -- Rays pitcher Jeremy Hellickson is set to make his first start of the 2014 season on Tuesday against the Royals following offseason elbow surgery.
The right-hander said on Monday that he is ready to go.
"I'm excited," Hellickson said. "It's definitely been a long time, but it's felt even longer. I was expecting to be back a month ago and, you know, had a couple of setbacks. But I'm feeling good now."
Hellickson said that he didn't think he would be on a pitch or innings limit on Tuesday, and manager Joe Maddon confirmed that on Monday afternoon.
"No, he's ready to roll," Maddon said. "He's been properly re-stretched up to 100-110 pitches, like he would normally do. I don't like Helly plus-110 very often -- so I'm saying if he's between 100 and 110 with a Rays lead in the sixth or the seventh inning, that would be kind of nice."
Hellickson had a couple of rough rehab starts with Triple-A Durham, which he said were due to a lack of command of his fastball. Other than that, though, Hellickson said that he didn't work on much in particular during his rehab assignment.
"I don't know, I was just trying to get outs the whole time and working on the fastball command, mostly," Hellickson said. "And that wasn't going too well, but the last one, I was happy with the way the last one went and hopefully can take that over to tomorrow."
Hellickson also said there wasn't any specific way to get that fastball command back, other than getting out there and throwing.
To make room for Hellickson, veteran left-hander Erik Bedard, who had been filling the fifth starter slot, was moved to the bullpen.
Rays ink No. 3 international prospect Rondon
ST. PETERSBURG -- The Rays confirmed the signing of Dominican prospect Adrian Rondon on Monday, his 16th birthday.
The 6-foot-1, 175-pound shortstop, ranked No. 3 on MLB.com's Top 30 International Prospects list, received a $2.95 million signing bonus.
"I'm happy for myself and for my family, and I thank God," Rondon said. "I'm thankful for the opportunity to sign. It's a dream come true, truthfully, not for the money, but for the chance to compete in the Major Leagues. It's truly going to change my life. I've worked for this every day from 7 [a.m.] to 7 at night to have this chance. There were many sacrifices."
Rondon has fluid actions on offense and defense, and he never seems out of control. He projects to be a solid defender with a decent arm, quick feet and natural baseball instincts. The teenager is also expected to stay at shortstop because of his advanced skill set.
On offense, Rondon is known for making solid contact and has gap-to-gap power. He has shown a good approach at the plate, and he starred during his appearances in International Prospect League games in the Dominican Republic.
Rondon is trained by Astin Jacobo.
In accordance with the Collective Bargaining Agreement, each team is allotted a $700,000 base and a bonus pool based on the team's record in 2013 for the international signing period that started on July 2. Tampa Bay's bonus pool total for this year's signing period was $1,998,100, which would have put the Rays in line for a penalty, but the club made an accompanying trade with the signing to add money to its bonus pool.
The Rays sent Minor League pitcher Matt Ramsey to the Marlins for their second-, third-, and fourth-round bonus slots for the 2014-15 signing period, the value of which is just over $1 million. Added to the original $1,998,100 pool, that would give the Rays the requisite amount to sign Rondon without exceeding their bonus pool.
The Rays could still incur a penalty if they sign additional prospects that put them over the limit, but the trade gives them more room to work with.
Teams that exceed the pools by 0 to 5 percent have to pay 100 percent tax, and teams that exceed the pools by 5 to 10 percent are not allowed to sign a player for more than $500,000 during the next signing period and have to pay a 100 percent tax on the pool overage. Teams that exceed the pools by 10 to 15 percent are not allowed to sign a player for more than $300,000 during the next signing period and have to pay a 100 percent tax on the pool overage. In the most severe penalty, teams that exceed the pool by 15 percent or more are not allowed to sign a player for more than $300,000 during the next two signing periods, in addition to paying a 100 percent tax on the pool overage.
Bedard shifts from Rays' rotation to 'pen role
ST. PETERSBURG -- To make room for Jeremy Hellickson's return to the Tampa Bay rotation on Tuesday, veteran left-hander Erik Bedard, who had been occupying the fifth starter role, was moved to the bullpen.
Bedard started the season as a long man out of the 'pen, but he soon stepped into an injury-depleted rotation. He had a stretch of five straight starts allowing one earned run or fewer from April to May, but the southpaw has been rocky over the last month or so.
"Overall, you look at his body of work," manager Joe Maddon said. "He's had some really good games and some where it was, like, four innings or less. So, you look at the body of work coming into this moment. Helly's ready. So what do you do? You make your best guess. Our best guess is, let's put Frenchy back there and give Helly a chance to become Helly again."
Rookie Jake Odorizzi has earned his place in the rotation, according to the skipper.
"You're not gonna take Odo out of the rotation right now," Maddon said.
Odorizzi, who had won the fifth starter's job out of Spring Training, struggled early on and was not pitching deep into games. But he has rebounded strongly, especially since early June.
"I liked Odo from the beginning," Maddon said. "I remember back when he was not getting results, I thought he was throwing the ball well and having a lot of bad luck."
David Adler is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.