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Hellickson on preparing to pitch in Interleague games

Home has been far from sweet for Marlins starter Ricky Nolasco. He hopes it doesn't get any worse on Friday against the Rays, when the teams open an Interleague series.

Opponents are hitting .304 against the righty in Miami, where he also holds a 5.79 ERA. That's good news for Tampa Bay hitters, who have scored four or more runs in just three of the last nine games.

To make matters worse for Nolasco is the success the Rays have had against him in particular. The club's all-time wins leader is just 2-3 with an 8.51 ERA in his five career starts against them, the last three of which were losses.

Tampa Bay took four of the six games in the Citrus Series against Miami last season, but Rays manager Joe Maddon believes the Marlins will be a tough task.

"They're good, they're very good," Maddon said. "We saw them during Spring Training, they've gotten their stuff together right now. Their pitching is really good."

The Rays are coming off a rough stretch and have won just three of their last nine. Things won't get much easier as Friday's matchup begins a 15-game stretch against the NL East.

As notorious as the AL East is for being a tough division, its Senior Circuit counterpart isn't much easier. The only team below .500 is Philadelphia, which currently sits at 28-31. Washington leads the division with a 32-23 mark.

Rays: Hellickson excited to hit
• Tampa Bay will send out starter Jeremy Hellickson against the Marlins. This is the first time the Rays are playing on the road in a National League ballpark, meaning Hellickson will be the first Rays pitcher to stand in the batter's box this season.

"I am kind of nervous to tell you the truth," Hellickson said. "But it's going to be fun."

• Hellickson has enjoyed a fairly successful campaign in 2012 and has allowed three or fewer runs in eight of his last nine starts. The most recent one went for a loss, but the righty went 6 2/3 innings, allowing one earned run on four hits with eight strikeouts, due in large part to his curveball.

"[It's] probably the best curveball I've had since last year, I've just felt a lot more consistent with it," Hellickson said. "I had a lot of confidence with it ... just felt good throwing it with two strikes. I haven't felt that way for a while."

Marlins: Reyes knocks first homer as Marlin
• It took him 56 games to do it, but Jose Reyes on Thursday finally hit his first home run since joining Miami this season.

Reyes has shown good power for a middle infielder in the past, hitting a career-high 19 home runs in 2006. He also hit 12 in 2007 and 16 in 2008.

• Giancarlo Stanton continued his strong season when he knocked his team-high 14th homer Thursday. The 22-year-old is batting .296 with 41 RBIs on the season.

Worth noting
• Marlins manager Ozzie Guillen said outfielder Austin Kearns (right hamstring) should be activated from the 15-day DL and back on the team's roster Friday.

• Outfielder Justin Ruggiano, who was acquired by the Marlins on May 26 from the Astros, played parts of three seasons for the Rays in 2007, '08 and '11 and has appeared in the Marlins' last six games. He has five hits in 14 at-bats this season. Comments