Hellickson on rehab progress, timetable for return

ST. PETERSBURG -- Jeremy Hellickson continues to progress from January surgery to remove loose bodies from his right elbow.

Hellickson is due back in late May or early June. Rays manager Joe Maddon noted that Hellickson's body language tells an encouraging story about how he feels.

"He's walking around here, he's pretty happy," Maddon said. "Just look at his face."

Maddon agreed, in hindsight, that Hellickson's elbow might have bothered him to a certain degree last season, a year in which the right-hander struggled at times.

"May have," Maddon said. "He hasn't said that, but it could have been. Sometimes things like that can be subtle and you're feeling things that you're not quite sure of. It's not horrid, but it's there. Like a little stone in your shoe. You know it's there."

Maddon believes Hellickson is going to enjoy taking the mound when he returns.

"I said, 'Listen, once this thing is well, you're going to go out there with nothing, like regardless of if you said anything or not, nothing at all [in regard to pain], you know this is good,'" Maddon said. "So I'm anticipating for him to pitch well [once he makes his return]."

Rodriguez placed on paternity leave

TB@BAL: Rodriguez hits a deep two-run homer to left

ST. PETERSBURG -- Sean Rodriguez was not at the ballpark on Thursday after being put on paternity leave. He and his wife, Giselle, had their their fourth child, a 9 pound, 21 1/4-inch son.

To take Rodriguez's place on the roster Thursday night, the Rays recalled infielder Vince Belnome as a safety blanket.

Belnome arrived at Tropicana Field approximately an hour after the game began at 7:10 p.m. After the game, he received the expected news that Rodriguez would be back with the team Friday night when the Rays open a three-game series against the Rangers.

Rays manager Joe Maddon had nice things to say about Belnome, and he actually hoped to get him an at-bat, but that did not come to fruition. Nevertheless, Belnome didn't mind the short stay.

"It's just nice being here and knowing that they think that of me, that I can help this team any way," Belnome said. "I mean, today I knew I wasn't going to start. I mean, I wasn't here at game time. But who knows, I could have had a big at-bat late in the game. And I was ready to go."

Belnome's arrival was particularly crucial on Thursday night, after Wil Myers became a late scratch from the lineup with flu-like symptoms.

DH experiment getting solid early results

TOR@TB: Joyce's line-drive double knocks home a pair

ST. PETERSBURG -- Given the Rays' lack of production from everyday designated hitters over the years, they decided to not have a full-time DH this season.

Instead, they plan to move people around in that slot, occasionally giving a regular player a day off from playing the field, other times for matchup purposes.

Thus far, the DH experiment has worked well. Matt Joyce and Logan Forsythe have been given all the DH at-bats and they have gone 4-for-10 with a run scored and three RBIs entering play on Thursday.

"They've done well," Rays manager Joe Maddon said. "Matty's done well. Forsythe has done a nice job."

Maddon added that he has enjoyed having the DH spot available when filling out the lineup on a daily basis.

"I kind of like the flexibility, I do," Maddon said. "The opposite would be if you have one really outstanding DH, then you would prefer a static component. We have not really had that around here on any kind of consistent basis. So I like the flexibility of putting different people in there. Giving guys rest. I kind of like that. [The DH spot is] wide open, totally, and the game's wide open to pinch hit for that guy."

Maddon still getting feel for bullpen usage

Balfour looks ahead to 2014 season

ST. PETERSBURG -- The Rays have some new faces in the bullpen this season, including Heath Bell, Grant Balfour, and, to some degree, Brandon Gomes and Josh Lueke.

Manager Joe Maddon noted that he will need about a month to figure out the pecking order of how he wants to use this year's group. The Rays manager is looking to gain a feel for the pen's usage based on several factors.

Maddon discussed some of the more important questions about his relievers.

"Resiliency and how quickly they come back," Maddon said. "Do you like them for four outs? Do they just need to be one inning? Do they lose any effectiveness on one-plus? How are they against the opposite side? Are they better against the opposite side? I know what the numbers say, but what's playing right now?

"If you bring them in, can they field their position at different moments? Do we stay away from them if there's a bunt [situation], like in the National League? There's all those different things."

Maddon stressed that resiliency would be the No. 1 factor and after that whether the pitcher is whether the situation demands a groundball pitcher or a flyball pitcher.

Guyer continues to adjust to Majors

TB@BOS: Guyer robs Middlebrooks in the fourth

ST. PETERSBURG -- Brandon Guyer made the Rays as an extra outfielder. And while he's pleased to be in the Major Leagues, he knows he's going to experience a period of adjustment.

Guyer played every day in the Minor Leagues. Now he will get an occasional start in the outfield or at DH, but the bulk of his work will be late-inning work, such as pinch-hitting, pinch-running, and defense. Thus, Guyer has been trying to figure out the best approach.

"A lot of it is hanging around [Sean Rodriguez] and Logan Forsythe," Guyer said. "They've been through it before. So they have a lot of pointers."

Guyer added that being in the dugout and staying mentally prepared will be important for his new role, too.

"You might not be physically loose until later in the game, fifth or sixth inning, but mentally be in there and know that at any time you could be put in there with an injury or what not," Guyer said.

Thus far, Guyer has retreated to the batting cage after the fourth inning when the Rays are in the field. He'll hit some and throw some to stay loose.

Just to be ready and prepared to go it," Guyer said.

Hitting coach Derek Shelton said Guyer watching the game and talking about guys he might hit against is an important facet of staying ready, but he added: "It's more about staying loose and preparation for the pitcher."