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Hellickson makes debut for Rays versus Royals

(SportsNetwork.com) - Jeremy Hellickson makes his season debut on Tuesday when the Tampa Bay Rays continue a three-game series with the Kansas City Royals at Tropicana Field.

Hellickson felt discomfort in his elbow back in December and underwent arthroscopic surgery in January. He had been 12-10 a year ago with a career- worst 5.17 ERA over 32 games (31 starts).

"Hopefully, I don't have the butterflies like I had my first start in [Triple- A] Durham. I was pretty anxious," Hellickson said. "I'll have to control those (Tuesday) and get the ball down in the first inning. With the excitement going through my body, it's gonna be tough, but I've just got to settle down. I'm just ready to get out there again."

The 2011 American League Rookie of the Year has faced the Royals five times and is 1-2 against them with a 5.97 ERA.

Kansas City, meanwhile, will counter with lefty Jason Vargas, who is 8-3 with a 3.32 ERA. Vargas was terrific on Wednesday in Minnesota, as he scattered four hits over seven scoreless innings.

"He really knows his game plan when he's out there," Kansas City first baseman Eric Hosmer said. "He just fires strikes and lets his defense work. He's a fun guy to play behind, because you're on your toes every pitch."

Vargas is 4-4 lifetime versus the Rays with a 3.10 ERA in 10 games (9 starts).

Kansas City was able to slow down the red-hot Rays in Monday's opener, as James Shields tossed an effective seven innings in the Royals' 6-0 triumph.

Shields (9-4), who was traded from the Rays to the Royals in 2012, surrendered just three hits and one walk with 10 strikeouts to win for the sixth time in his last seven decisions.

"It's always nice to pitch on a mound you've pitched on numerous times before," said Shields on his return to Tropicana Field. "Once the first pitch happened, it was game on."

Alex Gordon and Omar Infante both had three hits, two RBI and a run scored for the Royals, who used 14 hits to end a two-game skid.

Ben Zobrist supplied two of Tampa Bay's four hits and starter Jake Odorizzi (4-8), who was also a part of the 2012 trade between the two teams, was tagged with the loss after giving up two runs on six hits and two walks with eight strikeouts.

The loss was just the second in the last eight games for Tampa.

The Royals took two of three from the Rays earlier in the year.

07/08 10:33:51 ET

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