As Jeremy Hellickson goes, so go the Rays. The Tampa Bay starter's performance has closely mirrored the team's trends; when the Rays are hot, he's hot, and when the bats fall silent, he's liable to give up a big inning.
Good news for Hellickson, then, that the Rays (68-51) are hoping to turn back-to-back wins into a longer streak on Friday when they take on Toronto, the current American League East cellar dweller.
"Hopefully, I can figure it out [Friday]," Hellickson said. "I feel good. My stuff feels good. I just have to throw more strikes and have better command. If I'm able to do that, I'll be OK."
The Blue Jays (56-65) are coming off a pair of wins themselves, and will trot out reigning National League Cy Young Award-winner R.A. Dickey to duel with Hellickson. They'll need a long start from the knuckleballer, as the bullpen threw 11 2/3 innings in the club's three-game series with Boston.
"Those guys are pretty gassed," manager John Gibbons said.
The Rays have had to rely on their bullpen lately as well. Tampa Bay's starters have lasted just five innings or fewer in six of the club's last seven games. Prior to this stretch, Rays starters had lasted at least five innings in 32 straight games -- including seven complete games -- while compiling a 2.21 ERA to lead the Major Leagues.
Dickey has been up to the challenge of late, lasting at least six innings in his last 10 starts. In that span, he's lowered his ERA from 5.15 to 4.46, while holding opposing batters to a .235 batting average.
Blue Jays: Johnson's arm strained but no tear
MRI results revealed that a pain in starting pitcher Josh Johnson's throwing arm is the result of a strain, not a tear, as the Blue Jays and Johnson originally feared. The pending free agent felt discomfort in his right arm while playing catch before Tuesday's game against Boston and was placed on the 15-day disabled list.
The team is seeking a precautionary second opinion from Dr. James Andrews. Johnson will remain with the team while they await his diagnosis.
"I think they do that almost every time," Johnson said. "Just to get another set of eyes on it, especially his. He's been around and knows a lot about the elbow."
Rays: Roberts DFA'd to make room for Cobb
While Alex Cobb's return to the starting rotation was welcome news for the Rays, it also meant that a corresponding roster move needed to be made to create room on the 40-man roster. The Rays designated infielder Ryan Roberts for assignment to create a spot for Cobb, who was placed on the 60-man disabled list after being struck in the head with a line drive on June 15.
"Ryan was a professional regarding how he took it and how he talks about us now and in the future," manager Joe Maddon said. "I couldn't be more proud of him. I wish him nothing but the best. I don't use the word 'classy' often, but he was classy and professional."
• The Rays were errorless again in Thursday's win over the Mariners. Their 43 errors through 118 games are the second fewest in MLB history. This year's Baltimore club is first with 36.
• The Blue Jays have struggled against their division opponents, dropping 11 of their last 16 contests against other members of the AL East.
Jacob Thorpe is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.