American League Preview from The Sports Network



Sunday, April 8th (All times Eastern)

New York Yankees (0-2) at Tampa Bay Rays (2-0), 1:40 p.m.

Probable Starting Pitchers: New York - Phil Hughes (0-0, 0.00) Tampa Bay - Jeremy Hellickson (0-0, 0.00)

(Sports Network) - Jeremy Hellickson tries to follow up a sensational rookie season this afternoon when he takes the ball for the Tampa Bay Rays in the finale of a three-game set against the New York Yankees at Tropicana Field.

Hellickson was the American League Rookie of the Year a season ago after leading all rookie pitchers in ERA (2.95), quality starts (20) and opponents' batting average (.210). He was 13-10, but that is a bit misleading, as he received one run or less in nine of his 10 losses with Tampa being blanked in five of his starts.

His batting average against was third lowest in the majors behind only Cy Young Award winners Justin Verlander and Clayton Kershaw, while his ERA was the lowest among qualifying AL rookies (based on a minimum 162 innings) since Kevin Appier compiled a 2.76 mark for the Royals in 1990.

"I knew it was a grind," Hellickson said. "I knew it was going to be a long season. I just didn't know how long. Thirty starts is tough. You have to work hard those four days in between your starts, and I learned a lot from these guys right here."

Hellickson, whose 2.64 ERA in the second half ranked third among AL starters, has faced the Yankees six times (four starts) and is 2-1 with a 4.18 ERA.

New York will counter with right-hander Phil Hughes, who is looking to bounce back following a forgettable 2011. After winning 18 games in 2010, Hughes struggled right out of the gate last season before being shut down in early April with a dead arm. He only appeared in 17 games (14 starts) and was 5-5 with a 5.79 ERA.

He did show some improvement in the second half, as he was 5-3 with a 4.55 ERA, a far cry from the 10.57 ERA he pitched to in four starts before the break. He was also terrific this spring, posting a 1.56 ERA in 17 1/3 Grapefruit League innings.

"I just came in and wanted to throw the ball well," Hughes said of his approach this spring. "I didn't want to think any further into it; I just wanted to make some tough decisions for these guys. I felt like I threw the ball well enough to be here, and that's really all I wanted to do."

For his career Hughes is 4-3 with a 4.01 ERA in 13 games (six starts) against the Rays.

The Rays made it two straight wins to start the year on Saturday, as Luke Scott went 3-for-4 with three RBI and a run scored, as Tampa Bay Rays held off the Yankees, 8-6.

Matt Joyce hit a solo homer and knocked in three runs for the Rays, who rallied past New York, 7-6, in the opener on Friday. Desmond Jennings and Carlos Pena each added an RBI and run scored for Tampa, which will try to get to 3-0 today for the first time since 2002.

David Price (1-0) gave up two runs on five hits in 6 1/3 innings to pick up the win. Price, who also fanned five and walked four, went 12-13 with a 3.49 ERA last season.

"Our lineup looks very solid right now," Price said. "It's fun to watch and hopefully we can continue to do this."

Nick Swisher hit a three-run homer in the ninth for the Yankees. Andruw Jones, Eduardo Nunez and Raul Ibanez added an RBI apiece.

New York hasn't opened a year with three straight losses since 1998 when they ended the year with 114 regular season wins and a World Series title.

Hiroki Kuroda (0-1) allowed six runs -- four earned -- on eight hits over 5 2/3 frames in his Yankees debut. The Japanese right-hander went 13-16 with a 3.07 ERA for the Dodgers last year.

"He gave up four [earned] runs in six innings and that's giving your club a chance to win," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said.

The Rays have now won 32 straight games when scoring five runs or more, which is the longest streak in the majors and the longest by an AL club since their own club-record streak of 32, from May 28-Aug. 3, 2008.

04/08 10:27:01 ET