The Rays' starting pitchers set pretty lofty expectations for themselves. When asked if 6 1/3 innings -- the length of his previous outing -- is the type of start he is looking for, right-hander Jeremy Hellickson scoffed.
"I don't think we should be too excited with six innings," said Hellickson, who took a no-decision after allowing five runs on eight hits against the Blue Jays on Wednesday. "We should be going seven. We're getting enough pitches to do that and we just have to be efficient with them. We'd like to go more than that. I threw 6 1/3 and I felt like I could have gone seven or eight."
Pitching that deep into the game is no easy task when facing the Rangers, Hellickson's opponent on Monday -- his 26th birthday -- at the Ballpark at Arlington. He has fared well against Texas, with a 2.25 ERA in two starts spanning 12 innings.
He'll likely need to be that effective, considering the man who will share the mound with him, Rangers righty Alexi Ogando. The 29-year-old blanked Houston over 6 1/3 innings on Wednesday and tallied 10 strikeouts.
"He was outstanding," Rangers manager Ron Washington said. "We were looking for him to build on his progress in Spring Training, and he did exactly what we needed him to do. He was outstanding. He used his changeup, moved the ball in and out and had a good breaking ball. He still didn't have command of his fastball. He's usually able to do that up. But he'll start dotting it up before it's all over."
Ogando was pleased to see his hard work pay off.
"I worked hard in Spring Training on all three of my pitches," Ogando said after his outing. "Today was the result of the hard work. Today was exactly how good all three of those pitches can be."
Ogando allowed one run in 3 2/3 innings (2.45 ERA) in four relief appearances vs. Tampa Bay last year. Overall, he's 0-1 with a 4.82 ERA in eight career games (one start) vs. the Rays in the regular season and has posted three scoreless frames over four relief outings vs. Tampa Bay in his postseason career.
Rays: Hellickson gets Gold Glove
Hellickson received his Gold Glove Award on Sunday, a day after rotation mate David Price was handed his Cy Young Award. Hellickson is the youngest pitcher to win a Gold Glove since 1989.
"I'm really honored to win it," Hellickson said. "I wasn't expecting it. But it was really awesome to win, I like winning it."
• Closer Fernando Rodney has allowed three earned runs this season in just 1 2/3 innings. Last season, Rodney yielded only five earned runs in 74 2/3 frames.
Rangers: Nathan sitting on history
Closer Joe Nathan recorded career save no. 299 in Friday's home opener and is seeking to become the 24th pitcher in Major League history to reach 300. Nathan would tie Jason Isringhausen and Hall of Famer Bruce Sutter for 22nd on the all-time list with his next save, and would join Mariano Rivera (609) as the only active pitchers with at least 300 saves. The only pitcher to reach 300 in a Texas uniform was John Wetteland, who recorded save no. 300 on May 12, 2000, in Anaheim.
• A.J. Pierzynski was the starting catcher for the Rangers' five games and became the first Texas catcher to start the first five since Gerald Laird in 2007. Pierzynski took a day off Sunday, though, and did not match Laird's feat of catching the first six games that year.
• In a low-scoring season series, the Rays won five of nine games against the Rangers last season. Tampa Bay outscored Texas, 39-29.
• Rangers outfielder Nelson Cruz has 11 hits in his first 24 at-bats this season. The right fielder played in his 700th career game on Saturday.