So, remember all those experts saying that newly acquired right-hander Jeremy Hellickson was a nominal addition to a poor Orioles’ rotation?
Forget ‘em. At least for a night.
(Yeah, I was one of those so-called experts, but stay focused, people).
Hellickson, whom the Orioles acquired Friday for outfielder Hyun Soo Kim, minor leaguer pitcher Garrett Cleavinger and international bonus slot money, made his Orioles’ debut against the Kansas City Royals on Wednesday night.
And it was his best game in more than a month.
He said he was nervous Tuesday evening, but by Wednesday, the 30-year-old was back in a routine, and he helped his new team pick up a series sweep in a 6-0 victory against the previously red-hot Royals.
“Last night, I had some nerves. But once I got out there, I felt fine,” said Hellickson, who allowed five hits, one walk and struck out three in seven scoreless innings “I’ve been traded before, just not in-season to a team that is playing as well as we are, that has a chance to make the playoffs. So, just a little nervous last night, but I felt really good today.”
August 2 apparently contains good mojo for Hellickson.
Wednesday was the seven-year anniversary of when Hellickson made his big-league debut against the Minnesota Twins, throwing seven innings, allowing two runs and picking up a win for the Tampa Bay Rays as a 23-year-old. He didn’t realize the connection until informed after the game.
“August 2, yeah, wow, that’s cool,” he said.
For a little while it looked like Hellickson’s Orioles’ debut would end in an unfortunate way. With two outs in the top of the third, Camden Yards was pounded with a driving rainstorm that delayed play for 35 minutes. It was just short enough to allow Hellickson to return to the mound once the game resumed.
“I thought it was going to rain a little longer, so I was a little disappointed (about having a delay),” Hellickson said. “But it ended up only being 30, 40 minutes, so I was OK.”
Orioles manager Buck Showalter said he wasn’t too concerned that the veteran might lose his focus during the interruption.
“Jeremy’s always had that presentation from both dugouts. Not a whole lot seems to bother him. He’s always been pretty consistent with his emotions, it seems like,” Showalter said. “I don’t know him that well. But from watching him in the other dugout and now watching here, it’s pretty matter of fact. He knows what he’s got to do and who he is and what he’s not.”
What Hellickson is is a strike thrower, a finesse guy who needs to hit his spots and mix things up to be effective. That’s exactly what he did Wednesday. He said his curveball was working well, and he mixed it in more than he usually does, alongside his changeup and low-90s fastball.
What his splendid start meant for the Orioles is hard to determine right now. It helped them continue their five-game winning streak (all since his trade) and move within 2 ½ games of the Royals for the second AL Wild Card spot.
It’s one outing. One series sweep. One winning streak that still hasn’t gotten the Orioles (53-54) back to .500. We’ve seen good outings from each member of this rocky rotation – it’s the consistency that is desperately needed.
But Wednesday was a heck of a debut for Hellickson. And, if you are into the “Orioles hope” mindset, as championed by executive vice president Dan Duquette, this one certainly didn’t hurt the cause.
“Everybody made me feel comfortable and welcomed, so I felt part of the team right away,” Hellickson said. “But it is always good to throw a good one your first time out with a new team. It was good to do that. But these guys made me feel welcomed from the second I walked in here.”