Phillies Opening Day Starter Jeremy Hellickson: ‘I'm Ready'

CLEARWATER, Fla. -- The scene on Monday will be much different when Jeremy Hellickson takes the mound in a full ballpark and faces a major league lineup in his second straight opening day start.

Hellickson tuned-up for that outing against the Cincinnati Reds with four innings of work in an intrasquad game at the Phillies' minor-league complex on Wednesday afternoon.

The attendance was about 30 -- a handful of fans, a dozen or so minor-league players who were done with their day, several club officials, an osprey and four seagulls.

"I'm ready," Hellickson said when the outing was over. "It's been a long spring but now that it's over it feels like it went by fast."

Pitching coach Bob McClure wanted Hellickson to make his final start of the spring in a controlled setting so "I could get four up-and-downs and keep it to around 15 pitches per inning," Hellickson said. The right-hander gave up just one hit and struck out three.

"I've been feeling good every start, but the last couple, the fastball has been coming out really well and the stuff's been feeling good," Hellickson said.

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Including this outing, Hellickson made seven starts this spring, pitched 28 1/3 innings and gave up 32 hits and 16 earned runs. He struck out 20 and walked six.

The right-hander, who will turn 30 on April 8, went 12-10 with a 3.71 ERA in 32 starts for the Phillies last season. He pitched 189 innings.

His personal goal for this season?

"Stay healthy," he said. "Make 33 starts. Two-hundred innings. I haven't gotten there yet, but that's always one of them."

Hellickson is the Phillies' highest-paid player at $17.2 million. There's a pretty good chance the team will look to trade him in July as it clears the way for younger pitchers who fit better into the rebuild.

Hellickson dealt with those rumors last year and was unfazed.

Entering the season, he is focused on pitching well and seeing if the Phils can surprise some folks.

"I guess it's just like last year," he said. "We believe in ourselves. There's a lot of good players in there, especially with the position players getting another year of experience and seeing the rotations they have to face for a full year and now getting back in there -- that will be big for those guys.

"I think we've got a good team. We just can't lose 14 in a row or nine out of 10 like we did last year. I feel good about us."

It starts for real on Monday.

Hellickson is ready.

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