When the Diamondbacks traded for right-hander Jeremy Hellickson during the last off-season, club officials thought part of a fragile rotation was solidified. As the season progressed, Hellickson has raised several issues and elevated “red flags.”
Though the media guide lists Hellickson at 6-1 and 190 pounds, he appears less in stature. Not that is a significant consequence, but Hellickson seems to run into recurring health issues. This started back in spring training, and several maladies prevented Hellickson from giving the Diamondbacks quality innings and strong production.
That’s when Hellickson complained of “a dead arm” in mid-March. Since, his slow and deliberate style on the mound may or may not put him in sync with a good pace to the game and an opportunity to deliver a sustained diet of quality pitches.
Despite beating the Pirates 4-1 in the opening of a three-game set Monday night in PNC Park, Hellickson had the leave the game due to dehydration. After the game, Hellickson told MLB.com that he felt sick on the team plane coming out of Atlanta Sunday night. That prevented him from eating properly, and Hellickson reported he did not hydrate himself properly before his start in PNC Park.
“Got sick on the plane, so I didn’t really hydrate too much (Sunday) night,” Hellickson told MLB.com. “And (Monday), I couldn’t really eat. Tried to hydrate as much as I could today. It’s tough when you don’t hydrate the night before.”
In the fifth inning Monday night, manager Chip Hale made the executive decision to pull Hellickson. At that point, the native of Des Moines, Ia. tossed 92 pitches and left with a 4-1 lead, the eventual final score.
While Hale tends to put his pitchers on a short leach, Hellickson has had problems with his economy of pitches. Only once this season has Hellickson pitched beyond the seventh inning, and pitched into the seventh only three times in his 23 starts this season. That does not give Hale much durability, and the skipper has to go to his bullpen earlier than desired.
In his previous start Aug. 11 at home against the Phillies, Hellickson reached into the eighth inning, and that represented the longest he pitched in over two years. Hellickson last went eight on May 23, 2013 with the Rays in a game at Toronto.
Hellickson has put together only one winning streak of note this season. From May 24 to June 5, he captured three straight. He also has one, two-game winning streak. That included a victory over the Phillies at home on Aug. 11 and his win Monday night in Pittsburgh.
If health and durability are issues, so is Hellickson’s production. With the victory of the Pirates Monday night, he raised his season mark to 9-8. If he stays healthy and takes the mound in games through the end of the season, Hellickson could have anywhere from six to eight more starts.
Should he break even, that would give him another three, possible four more victories. By the end of the season, Hellickson then could register a 12 or 13 win season. His career best is a 13-10 season for the Rays in 2011, and the year he won the American League rookie-of-the-year award.
If the Diamondbacks remain in a conversation for post-season honors, Hale needs to get more production from Hellickson and other starters. While the bullpen has performed admirably, only one starter, right-hander Rubby De La Rosa has recorded double-digit wins to date.
With about seven weeks remaining in the season, starters have given Hale a limited contribution. Hellickson remains one of the reasons why this team struggles to reach .500 and ascend higher.
At the start of the season, there was no reason to believe that the Diamondbacks would not score runs. The question pundits had was the durability and reliability of the starting rotation. The deals for Hellickson, De La Rosa from Boston and Robbie Ray from Detroit, was supposed to give Hale endurance and production.
With the sand shifting through the hour-glass of this season, the starters have failed to pay dividends. Then again, the last seven weeks of a season, or pennant drive, can unveil some very strange and interesting circumstances.