NEW YORK -- Jeremy Hellickson has taken a lot of ribbing from teammates since winning a Gold Glove Award after the 2012 season. But Friday night, the Rays right-hander used his glove to avoid serious injury in the first inning, when Ichiro Suzuki lined one back at the mound.
At first glance, it was hard to tell if the ball struck Hellickson in the head, but he came away with it in his glove.
Hellickson offered a smile, expressing relief when asked about how close he had come to getting struck with the ball.
"Really close," Hellickson said. "I saw it off the bat, it was hit so hard. I just threw my glove up and the ball kind of caught my glove. But I saw it off the bat, thank God."
Hellickson watched a replay after coming out of the game and noted: "It would have gotten me right in the jaw."
Rays players are familiar with the idea of a pitcher getting hit in the head by a batted ball, as they have witnessed it in person twice this season. First, J.A. Happ of the Blue Jays got hit in the head by a Desmond Jennings line drive at Tropicana Field. Later, Alex Cobb got hit in the head by a line drive hit by Kansas City's Eric Hosmer, also at Tropicana Field.
Fresh in first place, Maddon welcomes grandson
NEW YORK -- Rays manager Joe Maddon said he was pleased that his team woke up in first place in the American League East on Saturday morning, and he noted he believes the Rays can continue to sustain their fine level of play, which has seen them go 20-3 since June 29.
That record is the best 23-game span by an AL club since the 2006 Twins, who went 21-2.
"Pretty cool," said Maddon, asked how it felt to occupy first place. "It was only topped by the fact that my grandson was born last night."
Maddon told reporters that his fourth grandchild, and second grandson, Giuseppe Ennio Maddon, was born Friday night in Mesa, Ariz., at approximately 10:30 p.m. MST.
"So you go home after playing that game last night," Maddon said. "Getting back on top [in the standings], hopefully staying there. That's my fourth grandbaby and my second grandson, so that's exciting."
Maddon explained that "Ennio" means predestined.
"My son [Joey] does all kinds of research," Maddon said. "Just wanted to hold onto the Italian heritage, so he threw it out there and I thought that was fantastic."
Price could join rare company at Fenway Park
NEW YORK -- David Price's scheduled start in Monday's makeup game against the Red Sox at Fenway will afford the Rays' left-hander a rare opportunity.
After beating the Red Sox on Wednesday night in Boston, Price could become the first starting pitcher in more than 70 years to beat the Red Sox at Fenway Park twice within a span of five days.
The last two pitchers to turn the trick were Rip Collins for the St. Louis Browns in 1931 and Lefty Grove with the Philadelphia Athletics in '29.
Collins started the first and fifth games of a five-game series and won, 5-3, on May 14 and 6-2 on May 17.
Grove threw five innings on May 1 and exited with a 19-2 lead. The next day he threw a complete game in a 5-1 win.
Maddon takes positives out of bullpen's work in opener
NEW YORK -- A day after a near meltdown by the bullpen could have cost the Rays a game they seemed to have put away, manager Joe Maddon felt better Saturday about the way Tampa Bay's series opener in New York ended.
Rays relievers allowed five runs in the last two innings before Fernando Rodney entered the game to pick up the final out and earn his 25th save in the Rays' 10-6 win against the Yankees.
Part of the bullpen's struggles could be attributed to the fact it has not pitched much lately due to the success of the team's starting pitching. Friday night allowed the bullpen to knock off some of the rust.
"Yeah, we had to get some guys out there to pitch," Maddon said. "Cesar [Ramos] hasn't pitched in a while, Jamey's [Wright] pitched on a limited basis. Same thing with Kyle [Farnsworth]. And I didn't want to get Jake [McGee] and Fernando in under those circumstances, but they both needed work, too. So in a perverse way, it all worked out well. You'd rather just kick it and do it in a more comfortable manner, but everybody got some throwing in and it's probably going to benefit us."
Maddon allowed that it's been an odd year for Rodney.
"Of course he missed some early," Maddon said. "And the way we were playing did not work out well for him to get saves. Last night, he'll take that one-out save and I'll take that, too. That's a great way to get him going again in the second half. Fernando had that one little moment [during the early part of the season], but overall, he's been really good."
Bill Chastain is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.