The Tampa Bay Rays‘ starting rotation ranks as one of MLB‘s best in the second half of 2013. They’re a large reason why a team that spent much of June hovering around last place is now challenging the Boston Red Sox for the AL East‘s top spot.
Very little of their success can be attributed to Jeremy Hellickson, however. The young right-hander has failed to last five innings in five of his past six starts, and his ERA has gone from an okay but not great 4.48 to a horrendous 5.21. Not surprisingly, he’s taken the loss in every one of those five non-quality starts.
It was so uncharacteristic for Hellickson, that manager Joe Maddon inquired about his health following a 4.1 inning mess on Aug 21 in Baltimore. The response was something to the effect of “I’m fine, just struggling.” It’d be understandable if he showed even a tiny bit of improvement in his next start.
Instead, his 2.2-inning, five-ER disaster against the Kansas City Royals Monday left many Rays fans saying Hellickson needs to be removed from the starting rotation.
Where would he go? The bullpen’s a possibility, though the Rays already plan to move Roberto Hernandez there once Matt Moore returns from the disabled list. Another possibility would be to send Hellickson down with hopes that he’ll be better come next season.
Or the Rays could try trading him, praying some other team’s desperate enough to give up something halfway decent in exchange for a pitcher whose ERA has been above four much of this season. Hey, stranger things have happened.
No matter what decision’s made, one thing’s for certain: The Rays won’t win the AL East by trotting out Hellickson every 5-6 days. That’s the painful truth.