Hellickson sees progress, but early struggles loom large

Hellickson sees progress, but early struggles loom large

SAN DIEGO -- Did D-backs right-hander Jeremy Hellickson make progress in his second start of the season? Probably. Was he about to feel good about that after watching his team fall, 5-1, to the Padres on Tuesday night at Petco Park? No chance.

"We lost, so I'm not really in too good of a mood right now," Hellickson said. "But it was finally nice to get a little deeper into the game, that's for sure."

Hellickson allowed five runs on seven hits over 6 2/3 innings, an improvement over his first start of the year when he was able to go just 4 1/3 innings. His curveball seemed to be more effective this time around, and he was able to throw it for strikes.

However, Hellickson put his team in an early hole, one that was tough to climb out of, given Petco Park's pitcher-friendly tendencies and how well San Diego starter Odrisamer Despaigne has been throwing.

The Padres jumped on Hellickson before he could get his sea legs, as Wil Myers led off the first with a double, which ignited the three-run rally.

"I can't spot them three runs with the way that guy has been throwing," Hellickson said. "I've got to come out and be better in the first inning the next game."

After the first, Hellickson seemed to settle in, and he allowed just two more runs the rest of the way, one coming on a Justin Upton homer in the fifth and another that scored on a wild pitch after he had left the game in the seventh.

"He just got behind [in the count], and they made him pay," D-backs manager Chip Hale said of Hellickson's first inning. "Once he gave up the three runs I thought he did a good job of almost giving us seven complete, which is pretty impressive after that start. So there was some improvement there, definite improvement by him. It's one of those small victories you look at. Unfortunately we couldn't come back, but he gave us a chance to."

The early deficit combined with the crafty pitching of Despaigne came together to create problems for the Arizona hitters.

"We had some first-pitch outs that weren't hit very well," Hale said. "Guys just get a little too anxious, and that's just the way the game goes. Sometimes, especially with younger hitters, they try a little too hard rather than stepping back. We've got to do a better job as a staff to try to calm them down a little bit. It's our job, my job, so we kind of dropped the ball there tonight."

Steve Gilbert is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Inside the D-backs, and follow him on Twitter @SteveGilbertMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.