Former American League Rookie of the Year Jeremy Hellickson hopes to get off to another strong start on Wednesday when the Tampa Bay Rays continue a three-game set with the Baltimore Orioles at Tropicana Field.
Hellickson, the AL's top rookie in 2011, followed up a terrific first season by going 10-11 a year ago with a 3.10 ERA. However, he was 3-0 with a 2.51 in five April starts.
"I think he's one of those guys that will never give in to a hitter," Tampa manager Joe Maddon said. "For him to get deeper into the game, he's going to have to get more efficient outs, be quicker in the counts, things like that. And of course, strikeouts are good once you get to two strikes. But some guys even try to strike out hitters from the very first pitch, and that can get in the way also."
The 25-year-old righty, who is 14-12 lifetime at home, has faced the Orioles 12 times (11 starts) and is 6-3 against them with a 2.30 ERA.
Baltimore, meanwhile, will counter with Taiwanese right-hander Wei-Yin Chen, who was the team's most dependable starter a year ago, as he posted a 12-11 mark with a 4.02 ERA in his first year.
Chen led Baltimore in starts (32), wins, innings (192 2/3) and strikeouts (154), but would like to reach 200 innings this season, a plateau only one Orioles pitcher has attained since 2007.
"I know that depends on certain pitch counts," Chen said through interpreter Tim Lin, "but definitely, I want to go deeper and deeper into the game and help the team win."
Baltimore started its season in impressive fashion on Tuesday, as Adam Jones delivered a go-ahead two-run double during a seventh-inning outburst to help the Orioles to a 7-4 victory.
Chris Davis and Matt Wieters homered i the win, while Jones finished with three of the Orioles' 13 hits on the day.
Baltimore also received six solid innings from starting pitcher Jason Hammel (1-0), with the former Ray yielding three runs and just three hits to win his first career Opening Day assignment.
"It just shows what kind of competitor he is. He knew he didn't have his best stuff today, but he went out and gave us a chance to win," Wieters said of Hammel.
Reigning AL Cy Young Award winner David Price held the Orioles to two runs over six innings and left with a one-run edge that Jake McGee (0-1) squandered by being rocked for five runs and four hits while recording only two outs.
"I thought we did a lot of really good things today and they got us in the seventh inning," Maddon said.
Ben Zobrist went 2-for-3 with a homer and two RBI to pace the Rays offensively, with Desmond Jennings also collecting a pair of hits that included a run-scoring double.
Baltimore was 10-8 against the Rays last season.