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Martinez on return to Trop: 'It felt a little weird'

Nats manager played outfield for Rays, was team's bench coach from 2008-14
Special to MLB.com

ST. PETERSBURG -- Nationals manager Dave Martinez had a lot of fond memories of his decade spent in a Rays uniform. Too many for the former Devil Rays outfielder and long-time Rays bench coach to count -- from christening the new ballpark with the first-ever hit at Tropicana Field to the 2008 World Series run.

"There's been a lot," Martinez said. "It's tough to pick. They were all pretty memorable."

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ST. PETERSBURG -- Nationals manager Dave Martinez had a lot of fond memories of his decade spent in a Rays uniform. Too many for the former Devil Rays outfielder and long-time Rays bench coach to count -- from christening the new ballpark with the first-ever hit at Tropicana Field to the 2008 World Series run.

"There's been a lot," Martinez said. "It's tough to pick. They were all pretty memorable."

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Tweet from @RaysBaseball: "You're the manager. It's all good."Welcome back to the man that recorded the first hit in franchise history, @Nationals manager Dave Martinez! #Rays20 pic.twitter.com/3T7OLe9nGU

Martinez returned to Tropicana Field for the first time as an opposing manager on Monday. Martinez, who still lives in the Tampa Bay area in the offseason, said it has been "a great feeling" to return home for a few days and see his kids and family, if only briefly.

"It felt a little weird," Martinez said. "I'm not going to lie to you. Walking to this side of the clubhouse was different after so many years of going to the other side."

Martinez, once considered the front-runner to replace Joe Maddon as the manager of the Rays after his departure to the Cubs, said that he is happy with how everything turned out for him in his coaching career. Martinez was even informed by Dodgers manager Dave Roberts that he will be part of the National League coaching staff for this year's All-Star Game presented by Mastercard.

"For me, things took their course and I'm happy to be where I'm at," Martinez said. "I actually feel blessed because this is a great organization. I love this team, we are playing well so I'm really happy to be here."

Hellickson ready for next step
Starter Jeremy Hellickson shrugged off Sunday's rocky rehab start and said that he is ready to be activated for his turn in the rotation. Hellickson allowed 11 earned runs on nine hits in 4 2/3 innings, walking three while striking out four for Potomac.

"I feel fine," Hellickson said. "I thought my stuff was pretty good, just my command was a little shaky. I feel 100 percent."

Hellickson attributed the outing to simple rust. The righty hadn't been in a game situation since going on the DL on June 5 with a mild right hamstring strain.

"I'm not really worried about it," Hellickson said of the outing. "I can't really simulate game intensity on the mound in the bullpen so I just need to get back out there."

Martinez said that Hellickson will throw a bullpen session while the team is in St. Petersburg and, if there are no setbacks, will be the team's starter for Thursday's game against Philadelphia.

"We think he's ready to go," Martinez said.

J. Scott Butherus is a contributor to MLB.com based in St. Petersburg.

Washington Nationals