video thumbnail

Hellickson hopes to take next step in 2013

The Orioles' Wei-Yin Chen and the Rays' Jeremy Hellickson have the same number in mind as they begin the 2013 season. That would be 200, as in innings pitched.

Both can take the first step toward that significant mark on Wednesday, when Baltimore and Tampa Bay face off in the second game of their series at Tropicana Field. The Orioles took Tuesday's season opener, 7-4.

Chen nearly hit the 200-inning plateau last season, when he tossed 192 2/3 across 32 starts as a rookie. The 27-year-old Taiwanese left-hander went 12-11 with a 4.02 ERA last season, including 1-3 with a 2.97 ERA in five starts against the Rays.

Although he led Baltimore in innings -- along with starts, wins and strikeouts -- Chen wants to reach the round number. Jeremy Guthrie is the only Orioles pitcher to do so since 2007, having accomplished the feat each year from 2009-11.

"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."

Hellickson is looking to step up after the Rays' offseason trade of James Shields, who posted six straight 200-inning campaigns.

"I think I absolutely can," Hellickson said. "It's just a matter of getting quicker outs and throwing more strikes. I had a few more walks last year than I wanted. I think I did a good job in the second half. Cutting those down, if I continue to do that, it should add a few more innings on to the end of the year."

Hellickson, who will turn 26 on Monday, has thrown 189 and 177 innings, respectively, in his first two full big league seasons. Last year, the right-hander went 10-11 with a 3.10 ERA, including 2-2 with a 2.38 ERA in six outings against the Orioles.

Rays manager Joe Maddon agreed that Hellickson has some room for improvement in terms of his innings output.

"I think he's one of those guys that will never give in to a hitter," 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."

Orioles: Roster situation will be fluid
Last season, the Orioles made more than one roster move for each game they played on their way to the postseason as an American League Wild Card club. As the O's strive for a similar result in 2013, the process may look much the same.

"You have to be active to keep your team as strong as you can," executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette said. "I don't like to make moves just to make moves. But we like to have our best team, put all the resources we can into today's game and worry about tomorrow, tomorrow."

The 2012 Orioles used 27 position players and 25 pitchers, not counting a memorable emergency relief appearance from infielder Chris Davis at Fenway Park.

• The Orioles' win on Tuesday stood in stark contrast to the team's experience last season at Tropicana Field. In nine games there, Baltimore averaged fewer than two runs, with a high of four.

Rays: Niemann ready to work in relief
Right-hander Jeff Niemann didn't make an appearance out of Tampa Bay's bullpen on Tuesday, but he is ready when the right situation calls. Niemann lost out to Roberto Hernandez for the team's fifth starter position.

The 30-year-old Niemann has pitched only five of his 97 career big league games in relief, with three of those coming back in 2008, but he isn't concerned about adjusting to his new role.

"I think they're going to give me adequate time to warm up," Niemann said. "It's just going to be one of those things -- trial and error at first. We'll just see exactly where we need to be and how far we need to go. 'At what point during the day to we need to get warmed up?' and all that kind of stuff."

• Rays designated hitter Luke Scott, who is on the disabled list with a strained right calf, is encouraged by his recovery thus far. The earliest Scott could return is Monday.

Worth noting
• Orioles center fielder Adam Jones has hit .321 (9-for-28) with three home runs against Hellickson.

• Baltimore second baseman Brian Roberts went 2-for-4 on Tuesday, his first multihit game since last June 22. Injuries limited Roberts to 17 games last season. Comments