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New Orioles pitcher Jeremy Hellickson sees chance to help rally toward playoff spot

New Orioles right-hander Jeremy Hellickson will make his debut Wednesday in the series finale against the Kansas City Royals, and carries with him a unique experience that his new club hopes to replicate.

In Hellickson's rookie year with the Tampa Bay Rays, the club erased a nine-game September deficit to make the playoffs, and he sees that same potential with the Orioles this year, albeit on a smaller scale.

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"When I got traded, I saw we're only five games back, 5½ , whatever," Hellickson said Monday. "But there's still two months of baseball to play. I've been part of teams that came back from nine back in a month. It's definitely doable. It's always fun to come back, too, and do things people say you can't do. It's going to be a fun two months."

Hellickson brings a 4.73 ERA in 20 starts over from the Philadelphia Phillies, and will slot into a rotation that entered Monday with a 5.87 ERA and just one starter below 5.00 as the calendar turns to August.

"What we like about Hellickson [is] he's been a top performer in the league since he came into the league as a rookie," executive vice president Dan Duquette said. "He's an outstanding competitor and knows how to win the American League East having played in Tampa, and he's a very dependable, solid starting pitcher, which is something that we've been looking to solidify this year. That'll be a help."

"There's a lot of things to like about Jeremy," manager Buck Showalter said. "He's obviously looking for a home as his career goes forward, and hopefully he can find one here. Because we're in need of what he has the potential to bring."

He finally met up with his new team Monday when it returned from Texas, three days after a trade that sent him to the Orioles for outfielder Hyun Soo Kim and minor league pitcher Garrett Cleavinger. He was set to join them in Texas on Saturday, but was in a car accident en route to the airport and needed to accompany his girlfriend to the emergency room.

But he's in Baltimore now and had a light bullpen session Monday in advance of making his first start Wednesday. While familiar with the team from his time with the Rays, he said his first impression on the inside was a good one.

"I've met a lot of the guys and it seems like it's an awesome place to be," he said. "The four years I was in Tampa, all they did was win here. It was kind of expected. It'll be pretty fun to be part of a team like that again."

A pending free agent at season's end, Hellickson said he'd be using his time to get acclimated for evaluating it as a possible long-term landing spot. He said he agreed with most pitchers' assessments that it's difficult to pitch in Camden Yards, but said his previous stops in Philadelphia and Arizona had similar reputations and most of the trepidation at Camden Yards came because of the lineup a visiting pitcher was facing.

While the Orioles are his fourth team in four years, the other trades happened in the offseason, so he got comfortable in spring training. He looks forward to Wednesday to get that process going in a higher-stakes environment.

"I don't think 'nerves' is really the word," Hellickson said. "Just had some butterflies in my stomach when I actually got the call from Dan. I just hope I can help the team win Wednesday. That'll make everything a lot easier."

That's only part of what will be required for the Orioles, who have a slim chance of making the playoffs as it currently stands, to pass some of the other teams in front of them — all of whom have added at the deadline as well.

"The other teams have to lose," Hellickson said. "I think that's the biggest thing. You can run off eight, nine, 10 in a row and make up only one or two games if the teams in front of you aren't losing. We need some teams to start losing and just have to keep winning. I've watched the last few games, and I don't see why we can't."

Hellickson will start in what would've been Chris Tillman's spot in the rotation. Showalter said both Tillman and Kevin Gausman, who pitched into the ninth inning Saturday for the first time in his career, would each get an extra day of rest.

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