Tampa Bay opens a three-game set with the Blue Jays hoping for a strong finish to an eight-game homestand. The Rays are 2-3 in their last five games at Tropicana Field, including a 2-0 defeat against Atlanta on Sunday afternoon.
But Hellickson could be the answer that turns things around.
The right-hander is 4-0 with a 2.77 ERA in eight starts. He's 2-0 against the Blue Jays in three career outings, including a win on April 19 in Toronto. Hellickson is coming off a strong start against the Red Sox on Wednesday night, when he allowed one run on five hits in six innings, while striking out six against one walk.
"My fastball command is better than it has been, since I can remember anyway," Hellickson said. "The curveball is coming along pretty good. I've been saying it for a while, but I just have to get ahead of guys and throw strikes. I've been doing that the last few games."
Still, the Rays haven't won a series at home since a four-game sweep of lowly Seattle from April 30-May 3. Tampa Bay is 6-9 in its last 15 games.
"We've had some bad luck the last few weeks, but anybody we've put in there is getting the job done," Hellickson said. "I'm confident in whoever is back there."
Toronto begins a six-game road trip after going 4-3 during a seven-game homestand, which started with a two-game sweep by the Rays at the Rogers Centre and ended with a 6-5 loss to the Mets on Sunday that stopped a four-game win streak.
The Blue Jays visit St. Petersburg for the first time this season. The Rays are 4-1 against Toronto this year, but all of those wins were north of the border.
Kyle Drabek starts for Toronto and is coming off his best start of the year. He used a refined two-seamer to his advantage against the Yankees, allowing one run over seven innings to pick up his third victory.
"I think Kyle has made tremendous strides with his overall composure, the use of his two-seamer, which has allowed for added confidence," said Jays manager John Farrell.
Drabek is 3-4 with a 3.30 ERA in eight starts. In his only other start against the Rays in his career, Drabek allowed three runs in 5 2/3 innings on May 5, 2011, at Tropicana Field.
Blue Jays: Gomes turning heads
Yan Gomes played in his fourth Major League game on Sunday, going 1-for-2 with an RBI and a run scored.
Gomes made the most of his playing time with third baseman Brett Lawrie serving a four-game suspension. The rookie had two hits in his debut on Thursday and followed with his first career home run on Friday. Gomes, a first baseman, played third in Lawrie's absence.
"He hasn't backed away from any challenges," Farrell said. "He doesn't have a whole lot of third base in his past -- and even when we played him at third base [during] Spring Training, he was adequate, more than adequate there in the early read of it. That's why there really was no hesitation to bring him up with Brett's situation.
But Lawrie returns from his suspension on Monday, and that could mean fewer opportunities for Gomes.
"I think, ultimately, upon Brett's return, we'll have internal discussions for a player of his stage in his career. If we can find him enough at-bats, there's a potential, with his versatility, to remain in the mix," Farrell said.
Rays: Next up, No. 101
Closer Fernando Rodney recorded career save No. 100 on Saturday night against the Braves, becoming the 127th pitcher in Major League history to reach that milestone.
Rodney didn't keep the ball, though. He gave it to a fan who will soon turn 100.
"I really don't count [saves], I know I've had too many opportunities," Rodney said. "The only thing I think is, keep working. If I continue what I do, then maybe I get more opportunities to do something."
Rodney is 13-for-13 in save opportunities, including one on Tuesday against Toronto. He allowed one run on two hits in the ninth inning against the Jays on April 19, but Rodney didn't have a chance for a save in that game.
Toronto is 11-9 on the road this year.
The Rays have nine players on the disabled list.
The Blue Jays are 6-10 against their rivals in the American League East.