The Rays talked about Jeremy Hellickson going back to spring training. They felt he was untouchable when it came to acquiring a hitter.

On Monday night, Hellickson made his Major League debut against the Twins. It was a spot start appearance, and nothing more. He was going to be in the minors after the game was over, and that proved to be the case.

Still, the 23-year old right-hander knew he had to go out there and perform. It’s only human nature to go out and make an impression. The first impression comes a long way to being accepted by teammates and the coaching staff.

Hellickson had the Rays talking by allowing two runs and three hits in seven innings. It was good enough to earn his first victory of what should be a great career.

Just watching the kid pitch, it bears resemblance to Matt Garza. Hellickson blew the Twins away with fastballs at 96 miles per hour, and he worked fast to get his outs. Not with the stuff he had all night.

He retired the first ten men in a row to start the game. He used all of sorts of pitches to get his outs whether it’s the breaking ball, curveball, change-up or the fastball.

The Twins had no idea of what to do as the game went on. They were helpless after the fifth inning. Sure, they received a home run by Jason Kubel to make it a 4-2 game, but there was no way Hellickson was going to blow this game away.

Hellickson had one bad inning in the fourth when he gave up a walk, hit and a run, but he minimized the damage by giving up a run. The Twins could have taken the lead with runners at first and third with two outs, but he struck out Jim Thome to get out of it after Thome tried to foul off several Hellickson’s pitches.

No one is perfect. Pitchers will have a bad inning, but the key to a good start is how a pitcher reacts under adversity. Hellickson was not fazed. He expected to get out of jams.

The Rays pitchers find a way to make it look easy when it comes to pitching. They know how to get hitters out by getting strikeouts. The organization has done a good job of molding pitchers to pitch.

It wasn’t surprising to see Hellickson flourish in a jam when one looks at the way the Rays train their pitchers.

Bert Blyeven must have liked the fact Hellickson threw 107 pitches. The Twins TV color analyst likes to see starters go at least eight or nine innings per start, and he  moans about young starters being babied with the pitch count.

Hellickson’s stuff was sliding late in the game, but he found a way to still get the Twins out. He pitched deep in the game, which is something that is unheard of with rookies. He relished trying to go for a complete game, but Rays manager Joe Maddon ended his night after seven innings.

If Maddon had his way, Hellickson would go for the complete game. The Rays relievers have been overworked lately. Maddon’s bosses would be outraged to see a rookie pull a Kerry Wood and threw 130 pitches.

It’s hard to blame management for being cautious on the kid.

Even if Hellickson stunk, the Rays wouldn’t be down on him, and they shouldn’t. They know he is capable of getting outs with his stuff. They want him to be what David Price was in 2008, which is being a reliever in the playoffs.

Hellickson could be a guy that can either keep the game from being a blowout or protecting a lead late. He can be valuable in that regard, and this was why he was going to get a look this year.

There’s a lot to like about him from watching this game.

What’s scary is he can be even better than this.





















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