A year ago, Phillies righthander Jeremy Hellickson got his opening day started a little earlier than he wanted to in Cincinnati.
"I remember waking up about 8 a.m. to the parade they had outside," Hellickson said Sunday as he talked to the media at Citizens Bank Park before the team left for the opener Monday, again in Cincinnati. "That was pretty fun to wake up to."
While he would have liked a little more shut-eye, Hellickson said the pageantry before his first opening day start was memorable.
Now Hellickson will make his second opening day start, again in Great American Ballpark, to begin his second season with the Phillies.
"[Last year], going out to right field and warming up, there are not too many times you are warming up to a packed house," Hellickson recalled. "I remember the atmosphere, how awesome it was and seeing my family up in the bullpen for my first opening day start."
He said family would again be coming from Iowa to see him pitch.
Hellickson is not only happy to be making a second straight opening day start, but also to be with the Phillies.
Few players were subjected to more rumors at last year's trade deadline. Then, in November, he accepted the Phillies' $17.2 million qualifying offer instead of opting for free agency.
"I didn't really know what I wanted to do at the beginning of it, and it came down to the last day and I love it here and wanted to be back," Hellickson said. "So especially with the signings we made, it was kind of an easy decision when it came to it at the end and I am pretty happy with the decision I made."
Everybody involved was happy with Hellickson's first season with the Phillies. The pitcher, who will turn 30 Saturday, was 12-10 with a 3.71 ERA in 32 starts. He tied a career high with 189 innings pitched and provided veteran leadership to a young staff.
"He had a great year and can build on it and can get better," catcher Cameron Rupp said. "He knows how to pitch and he doesn't do more than he can. He knows himself and that is huge."
Hellickson won't blow batters away with his fastball. Last season his fastball averaged 90 mph, according to Fangraphs.
"When he has his change-up and breaking ball working, he is a solid major-league pitcher," manager Pete Mackanin said. "There is a good example where velocity doesn't always equal success, and hopefully that will rub off on some of the other players."
Hellickson can only hope to duplicate last year's opening day start. In six innings against the Reds he allowed just one unearned run on three hits. He struck out six and didn't walk a batter. Hellickson threw 79 pitches, 55 for strikes.
He left with a 2-1 lead in a game the Phillies would lose, 6-2, after the bullpen surrendered five runs in the eighth inning.
Hellickson will enter this season with the same goal as always, one that stresses durability.
"I have had a 200-inning goal since I was a rookie," he said.
That year, in 2011 with Tampa Bay, he was 13-10 with a 2.95 ERA in 189 innings and earned the American League rookie of the year award.
He said that while with Tampa Bay, teammates such as David Price and James Shields taught him the importance of being durable.
"They would say if you get to 200 innings pitched, you can look back and like how your year went," he said. "I haven't gotten there yet, but it is a goal, as well as making every start."
That will begin with his second opening day assignment in a familiar setting.