Hellickson has some tightness in his back that surfaced on Sept. 16 in New York. He turned in a quality start in his last outing against the Rays at Camden Yards, allowing three runs over six innings in a 9-6 loss.
“I felt good the last start, just really didn’t recover like it did between the Yankee game and the Tampa game,” he said. “If we were still in it, it’s definitely something I could treat and pitch, but I just didn’t think it was the smartest thing. Just kind of locked up on me a little bit the last couple days.
“I felt great every start, just maybe in the fourth inning of the Yankee game. It was really stiff that inning. But that was the only time. Like I said, it’s something that if we were still in it, it’s something I could treat and go out there and pitch, but it’s probably not the smartest thing to do.”
Five of Hellickson’s 10 starts with the Orioles were quality by definition. He failed to complete five innings in four outings, and he allowed at least six runs in four starts.
“It was definitely an inconsistent two months,” said Hellickson, who posted a 6.97 ERA with the Orioles after they acquired him from the Phillies on July 28. “I think half my starts were quality and then the other half, I’d give up four-plus runs in five different innings, five-plus runs. In the past that’s been one of my strengths is to kind of limit those big innings and for some reason I had a lot of big innings this year.”
Hellickson questioned his pitch selection, relying too much on his changeup.
“I don’t think I used my fastball enough,” he said. “I think that was probably the biggest thing. Other than that, lost command there a couple games. Between the walks and not keeping the ball in the yard, I gave up a lot of big innings.”
The habit isn’t typical of Hellickson, who prides himself on limiting his walks and home runs and limiting the damage. But innings would spiral out of control this summer.
The 2.3 home runs per nine innings with the Orioles are the highest of his career. The 3.0 walks match his second-highest total since he debuted in 2010.
“I definitely think that’s something that I’ll fix next year and it definitely won’t continue. But there’s nothing I can really do about it now,” he said.
“The good thing is my arm felt great the whole year. I thought my stuff was really good. Just a lot of those games the lines didn’t look good at the end. It was always one inning, it felt like. I’d go three or four scoreless and give up five runs or something. I felt like I didn’t give up a lot of hits, but when I did it was a three-run homer, a couple three-run homers, which isn’t good. But the good thing is my arm felt great the whole year and I’m healthy.”
Hellickson is a free agent again after accepting the $17.2 million qualifying offer in November. The Orioles need multiple starters and Hellickson said he’s open to staying, but it isn’t likely to happen.
“Yeah, I’d consider anything,” he said. “I loved my two months here. It’s an awesome group of guys. Pitching at Camden wasn’t too much fun, but it’s definitely someplace I’d like to come back to. I had a good time here.”
Manager Buck Showalter praised Hellickson today for having “a good career so far.”
“I’m sure he’s got some things planned for next year as a free agent,” Showalter said. “I know what he was like in Tampa. Nobody’s the same three or four years later. Everybody changes somewhat. I’m not going to get into some of the challenges that I think he’s faced here and this season.
“Hopefully, he’ll get them behind him and be a good pitcher for somebody next year.”
Update: Gabriel Ynoa surrendered hits to three of the first four batters in the first inning and fell behind 1-0. Josh Bell had an RBI single.
Mancini has a 16-game hitting streak.
Update III: Gregory Polanco led off the bottom of the second with a home run to reduce the lead to 3-2.
Update IV: Bell hit a long two-run homer off Ynoa with two outs in the third to give Pittsburgh a 4-3 lead.
Update V: Mychal Givens allowed a run in the seventh on Starling Marte’s broken-bat infield single that scored Sean Rodriguez, who led off with a double. The Orioles trail 5-3.