Maddon sees Hellickson's fastball coming around

Maddon sees Hellickson's fastball coming around

LAKELAND, Fla. -- Rays right-hander Jeremy Hellickson gave up three runs in the first two innings of Tuesday's 11-5 win over the Tigers at Joker Marchant Stadium.

And that didn't bother Joe Maddon a bit. "I liked Helly a lot," the manager said. "I thought he was really good, because he pitched primarily with his fastball. There were a lot of balls hit on the ground. I thought it was by far his best outing of the spring."

Said Hellickson: "I felt good about it. The first inning was a little long, a little rough. But I settled down and made some pitches and felt good. I just made some better pitches when I was ahead. Those runs in the first came on 0-2 pitches. They were all right pitches. But they're good hitters, and I've got to be a little bit better. The last few starts, I've struggled a little bit with my command and getting ahead of guys. So I wanted to come out and establish that and throw strikes."

Hellickson settled down after that and didn't allow a run in his final four innings of work against a stacked Tigers lineup that included Miguel Cabrera, Prince Fielder, Victor Martinez and Torii Hunter.

His Grapefruit League ERA is 4.97 but Maddon doesn't really care about that, either. "Coming out of the Midwest with that wonderful Iowa tan that he possesses, he's always in the process of catching up a little bit. And it's worked for him in the past. To me, throwing his fastball where he wants to is the only thing I'm concerned about," the manager said. "I don't really over-analyze any of the Spring Training stuff other than is the delivery good? And throw your fastball for strikes. If you are, I'm happy."

Paul Hagen is a reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.