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Odorizzi presented with golden opportunity

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ST. PETERSBURG -- With Jeremy Hellickson out until May following right elbow surgery, right-hander Jake Odorizzi is considered the favorite to move into the Rays' No. 5 slot in the rotation.

"Everything changes," Odorizzi said. "I didn't know anything about Helly's surgery until everything happened. I think everybody here was caught a little bit off guard by it. ... It's really an unfortunate situation. Just getting started up throwing and you do a bullpen and have arm problems -- I feel bad about that."

Odorizzi, who came to the Rays from the Royals prior to the 2013 season in the Wil Myers trade, has endured a mixed bag of offseason reports speculating on his fate for the 2014 season. First, there were the rumors of staff ace David Price being traded. If that happened, most penciled Odorizzi into the rotation.

Once the offseason reached a point where the prospect of trading Price began to lose steam, Odorizzi faced the possibility of pitching another season at Triple-A Durham or finding a spot in the bullpen. And, of course, after the news about Hellickson broke, Odorizzi now appears earmarked for the starting rotation once again.

Odorizzi managed a smile about his ever-changing fortunes.

"You never pay attention to anything because you never know what's going to happen," Odorizzi said. "... It's all unpredictable. So all I can do is what I have to do to get ready."

Odorizzi, 23, is Tampa Bay's highest-ranked prospect at No. 56 in MLB.com's annual rankings. His first year in the organization saw him split time between Triple-A Durham and the Major Leagues. Odorizzi served five stints with the Rays, finishing at 0-1 with a 3.94 ERA in seven appearances, four of which were starts. He posted a 9-6 mark with a 3.33 ERA in 22 starts for the Bulls.

Bill Chastain is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

{"event":["prospect" ] }
{"event":["prospect" ] }