NEW YORK (AP) — Jeremy Hellickson says he’s never been able to tame his dog.
He’s talking about that scruffy Yorkshire Terrier of his. The one named Jeter.
A persistent downpour Friday night prevented the Tampa Bay Rays’ rookie starter from getting the chance to deny Derek Jeter the two hits he needs to reach 3,000. The second game of a four-game series against the New York Yankees was rained out, bumping Hellickson back in the rotation.
“I don’t really know if he knows his name because he never listens to me,” Hellickson said of his dog, not Derek.
Hellickson grew up a Yankees fan in Iowa with his dad. Reggie Jackson was his favorite player. The right-hander got the dog in 2005, the year Tampa Bay drafted him in the fourth round.
A baseball fanatic, he did the best he could in naming the playful pup.
“I’m really not that good on dog names, I guess,” Hellickson said. “I just came up with it.”
It’s hard to blame him. By then, Jeter was already a four-time World Series champion and captain of the Yankees.
Hellickson, a 24-year-old rookie, is 1-0 with a 4.91 ERA in two relief appearances against the Yankees. Jeter is 1 for 2 against him.
“It’s kind of funny that it happened,” Hellickson said of lining up to face Jeter so close to the milestone. “It’s not like I expected this to happen when I gave him this name.”
Now, Hellickson will miss Jeter and all the other Yankees in this series. The teams play 15 more times this season, though. Rays ace David Price will face A.J. Burnett on Saturday, and James Shields will go up against New York’s best, CC Sabathia, on Sunday, the final game before the All-Star break.
Once Friday’s game was postponed, the Rays decided to skip Hellickson.
The game will be made up Sept. 22. The rainout gives Jeter, with 2,998 career hits, just two games to reach the mark at Yankee Stadium before the break. New York opens the second half with an eight-game road trip.
The Rays could have agreed to play a split doubleheader Saturday, but voted for the later makeup date.
“I don’t think there’s really a win,” third baseman Evan Longoria said. “The initial thought was they wanted to play a doubleheader tomorrow. I think we all know why they’d like to get these three games in and obviously they’re rooting for Derek to get his 3,000th hit here in this series, I mean, we’d like to see him do it, too. And he’s got two more days to do it.”
But the teams had a two-game series scheduled for Sept. 20-21 in New York bookended by two off days, and manager Joe Maddon said putting off the makeup game would suit the Rays better.
“Where we are right now, if I had my druthers about it, we would probably choose later,” Maddon said before the decision was made. “At this point in the first half, guys are run down… I like the idea you have expanded rosters in September.”
Despite posting a lineup Friday that did not include Alex Rodriguez and Nick Swisher because of injuries, Yankees manager Joe Girardi wanted to play for all the people who wanted a shot at seeing Jeter’s big hit.
“Whether I’m frustrated or not, it doesn’t matter,” Girardi said. “It was important to us, it was important to our fans.”
Maddon wasn’t swayed by the absence of Rodriguez because of an aching knee and Swisher with a sore left quadriceps.
“Two games right now is not appealing,” Maddon said.
One of Maddon’s stars who could use the rest is Johnny Damon. He sat out Thursday night’s 5-1 victory after being hit on the left hand by a pitch from the Twins left-hander Francisco Liriano the previous day. Damon might be able to play Saturday.
“It’s still kind of a weakness about it because it was swollen,” Maddon said.
Price and Shields were not averse to playing catch in the outfield while lightning lit up the sky overhead and rain fell steadily.
“I wasn’t worried. We wanted to get our throwing in,” Shields said. “Besides, we’re from Florida and used to it.”
The Rays play in a domed stadium.
(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)