Hellickson to face first live hitters since injury

Hellickson to face first live hitters since injury

ST. PETERSBURG -- Rays starting pitcher Jeremy Hellickson, who has been on the disabled list since the start of the season after having arthroscopic surgery on his pitching elbow in March, is making progress, the right-hander said Wednesday.

Hellickson said he would throw a session of live batting practice on Thursday, his first since beginning his rehab. Hellickson said his improvement was "very encouraging."

Hellickson did not have any major updates on the timetable for his return -- he is expected to be out until around late June -- but did say he should be back before the All-Star break.

"I don't know how many rehab starts I'm gonna have to make; I don't even know how many live BPs I'm gonna throw," Hellickson said.

Hellickson also said that he had been throwing curveballs during his bullpen sessions and was no longer feeling pain while doing so.

"There were a few bullpens there where I thought I was going to have to pitch with that soreness for, you know, ever," Hellickson said. "And a week later, it's gone, and I'm feeling really good now."

Last season with Tampa Bay, Hellickson went 12-10 with a 5.17 ERA in 32 games (31 starts). He has averaged 30 starts over the past three seasons, a mark he will not be able to reach this year.

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