The right-hander was recalled from Triple-A Durham before the game and was optioned back afterward. The spot start was designed to give the entire rotation extra rest, but it also set up Hellickson to join the Rays’ bullpen later this season.
“If he had thrown a no-hitter he’s still going back,” Tampa Bay manager Joe Maddon said. “We had this planned out. This is what we think is the right thing to do. He did his job. We’ve got five nice starters that got an extra day of rest because of him with a win.”
Hellickson (1-0) allowed two runs and three hits in seven innings, helping the Rays win for the ninth time in the last 10 games. Tampa Bay moved into first-place tie in the AL East with the New York Yankees, who lost 8-6 to the Toronto Blue Jays.
“I like it here a lot better, but I understand completely,” Hellickson said. “I think I was more nervous walking out there than I was once I got on the mound.”
Hellickson struck out six and walked two.
“A good-looking pitcher,” Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. “Real smooth. Looks like he handles it well.”
Tampa Bay went up 4-1 in the fifth when Carl Crawford(notes) hit a run-scoring double and Joyce drove in two more off Carl Pavano(notes) (13-7) with a double during a 12-pitch at-bat. Joyce has 15 RBIs over his last 17 games.
Twins catcher Joe Mauer(notes) was out of the lineup for the second straight game after receiving a cortisone shot in his right shoulder on Saturday. The reigning American League MVP, dealing with tendinitis since he took a foul tip off the shoulder last month, could start Tuesday.
“He’s OK. A little sore still from the shot,” Gardenhire said. “He feels better. Give him another day and see where he’s at.”
Hellickson retired his first 10 batters before a one-out walk in the fourth to Alexi Casilla(notes), who later scored to tie it the game on Kubel’s single. Kubel cut the Twins deficit to 4-2 on a sixth-inning solo shot.
Evan Longoria(notes) put the Rays up 1-0 on an RBI single in the third. It stopped the Twins’ streak of throwing 23 straight scoreless innings, after consecutive 4-0 wins over Seattle. The previous allowed run came in the sixth inning last Friday to the Mariners.
After three consecutive sellouts of 36,973 against the New York Yankees over the weekend, Monday’s announced crowd was 17,689.
NOTES: The Rays purchased the contract of INF Dan Johnson(notes) from Durham. He was hitting .303 with 30 homers and 95 RBIs in 98 games. … Minnesota 1B Justin Morneau(notes), out with a concussion since July 7, had a light workout in Minnesota. … Tampa Bay INF-OF Ben Zobrist(notes) (lower back stiffness) could be back in the lineup in the next couple days. He was hurt last Wednesday. … Rays 1B Carlos Pena(notes) (right foot soreness) is undergoing treatment and his return date is uncertain. The disabled list is still possible. … Twins bench coach Steve Liddle left the team following the death of his father and is expected to miss the four-game series.