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MLB Tampa Bay Rays

Tampa Bay Rays: Joe Maddon Stays Calm As Jeremy Hellickson Struggles

Howard Smith-USA TODAY Sports

Right-hander Jeremy Hellickson made an immediate and indelible impact on the Tampa Bay Rays pitching staff upon entering the majors three years ago. The hurler won his only four decisions in 2010 before claiming American League Rookie of the Year in 2011 and a Gold Glove in 2012.

Whether his arm is right plays an increasingly critical role on the Rays’ starting rotation in 2013 with James Shields having been shipped to the Kansas City Royals this offseason.

As MLB Opening Day approaches, the 25-year old’s stuff hasn’t been up to snuff in Spring Training, especially for a team that posted the best ERA in the majors last season. Hellickson’s 6.75 ERA in Grapefruit League play and six earned runs allowed in his last outing against the Detroit Tigers, however, have not caused Rays manager Joe Maddon to show any concern publicly about the second man in his starting rotation.

“He’s healthy, he’s fine and that’s all that matters. He’ll be ready when it comes time to make his first start,” Maddon said, via the Detroit Free Press. Meanwhile, his pitcher took on a different tone. “I haven’t been pitching very good,” Hellickson said. “I haven’t been executing my pitches and I am pretty disappointed right now. That’s not the way to go into the season. … I felt great the last two outings and I felt fine today. That’s why it is so frustrating.”

Opening Day for the Rays is set for an April 2, 3:10 p.m. ET opening pitch against the Baltimore Orioles at Tropicana Field.

Thomas Emerick is a Senior Writer for RantSports.com. Follow him on Twitter @ThomasEmerick, “Like” him on Facebook or add him to your network on Google