The Nationals announced that they’ve selected the contract of veteran right-hander Jeremy Hellickson and transferred catcher Jhonatan Solano to the 60-day disabled list (bone chips in right elbow) to create a spot on the 40-man roster. The Nats opened an active roster spot for Hellickson, who’ll start tonight’s game, by optioning righty Trevor Gott to Triple-A Syracuse.
Hellickson, 31, will step into the fifth spot of the Nats’ rotation in place of struggling right-hander A.J. Cole, who has been tagged for a dozen runs on 13 hits (four homers) and five walks through his first nine innings of the season. Cole couldn’t be sent to the minors to clear space for Hellickson due to the fact that he’s out of minor league options and would’ve first needed to be exposed to waivers. As such, he’ll head to the bullpen for now.
Hellickson will be eyeing a rebound from a disastrous 2017 season that saw him struggle with the Phillies before completely coming unglued following a trade to the Orioles. In 51 2/3 innings with the O’s down the stretch, the 2011 AL Rookie of the Year allowed an average of 2.26 home runs per nine innings pitched while notching just 5.40 strikeouts against 2.96 walks per nine frames. The resulting 6.97 ERA and overall body of Hellickson’s struggles were concerning enough that he had to settle for a minor league contract with an invite to MLB camp with the Nats in free agency this winter.
Of course, Hellickson isn’t far removed from a full season of work as a quality big league starter. Pitching for the division-rival Phillies in 2016, Hellickson parlayed 189 innings of 3.71 ERA ball with 7.33 K/9, 2.14 BB/9, 1.14 HR/9 and a 40.7 percent grounder rate into a $17.2MM qualifying offer. He accepted that QO rather than testing the open market but wasn’t able to further build his stock and cash in on a multi-year pact as he likely hoped.