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Tampa Bay's Hellickson vs. Davis: Battle for Caboose of the Rotation

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Tampa Bay's Hellickson vs. Davis: Battle for Caboose of the Rotation
Nick Laham/Getty Images

The Tampa Bay Rays went 106 games into the season before starting a pitcher not named James Shields, Matt Garza, Jeff Niemman, David Price, or Wade Davis.

This kind of consistency in the rotation doesn't quite play into the managing style of Joe Maddon. 

If you watch the Rays two days in a row, you will rarely see Joe put the same lineup card out those two days. However, this rare occurrence has been a great thing to rely on for the Rays.

As the trade deadline approached, Jeremy Hellickson was in the minds of numerous teams, except the Rays.

I think Evan Longoria was the only Ray that felt as secure as Hellickson. The Rays knew what they had in Hellickson and weren't going to allow him to go elsewhere.

Hellickson has put up great numbers in AAA and was finally given his opportunity to start just so the rotation could have an extra days rest.

Then comes August 2. The first day one of the starting five wasn't starting.

Much talked about Jeremy Hellickson takes the mound for his first career start. He had the opportunity to face the Twins lineup, minus Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau.

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Hellickson retired the first 7 batters he faced and had some "nasty" pitches. His fastball was reaching 93 mph consistently and was doing a fantastic job hitting his spots.

When all was said and done, Hellickson won his debut giving up only 2 runs in a 4-2 victory for the Rays. He was the first Rays pitcher since Jeff Niemman to win his pitching debut.

So now comes the popular question, is this one outing enough to unseat Wade Davis from the 5th spot in the rotation?

If this came before July 30th, I would say yes without hesitating.

Joe Maddon said after the game, "If he had thrown a no-hitter, he's still going back." That is a little dramatic, but I understand what Joe is doing. He is continuing the consistency in the lineup for the stretch run.

But is Davis the answer? Can he be consistent enough to take the Rays to the division title? I am not convinced.

On July 30th Wade Davis opened a pivotal 3-game series against the Yankees.

Davis pitched better than he has all season and got the win giving up only two runs to a loaded Yankees lineup. Wade got past his biggest issue of command and really shut down the Bronx Bombers.

Then comes Davis' next start since the 3-2 victory, and I think, "Here we go again."

Davis gives up four runs in the first inning to the Twins and a total six earned runs in only six innings. Davis continues his up and down trend and luckily ends up getting the no decision as the Rays rally for six runs but fall short.

As the stretch run approaches, the Rays lineup needs to be solid. Any weakness will be exploited and one bad game could cost them the division. 

I believe Davis is a weakness. He walks too many batters and his ERA is approaching five. This is not what the Rays need as the competition gets intense. They can overcome a weak bat, but not a weak starter.

Hellickson showed his maturity in his start against the Twins. He was calm, cool, and collected throughout the whole game and looks to be ready mentally to take on the role.

I remember twice during his outing when the Twins had runners in scoring position with less than two outs and Hellickson stepped up, made his pitches, and got the Rays out of the jams.

Even though I believe Davis will be a top of the rotation pitcher soon, this year isn't it.

The Rays need to commit to Hellickson for the stretch run. He will win the games that should be won, like today's game against Minnesota.

I may be jumping the gun on the pitcher, but Hellickson is 26 and has had plenty of starts in AAA.

He is ready.

Bring him up and leave no doubt who the best team in baseball is...THE RAYS!!!!

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