The Tampa Bay Rays pitcher faced Ichiro in the bottom of the first inning and gave him a pitch to hit when Ichiro ripped it right back at him.
Hellickson somehow got his glove up to avoid a nasty injury, also making the catch, thanks to his natural reflexes.
Hellickson didn't have time to think when the ball was hit right at him. He just raised his glove to try to protect himself like pitchers are taught to do, and he somehow came away with the ball safely tucked in his glove.
The Rays don't need another starting pitcher to hit the DL along with Alex Cobb and Jeff Niemann, and they're lucky that Hellickson wasn't lost on this play.
If Hellickson were to have been hit with this ball there's a good chance it hits him in the head, and we've already seen that line drives to the head can keep pitchers out of commission for extended periods of time.
Toronto Blue Jays pitcher J.A. Happ took a line drive earlier this season against the Rays on May 7 in the second inning of the game. Desmond Jennings ripped the pitch right back to Happ, leading to a gruesome injury.
Happ is still on the DL. His return date is still unknown 80 days later, and this injury stole most of his 2013 season.
The Rays couldn't afford to have Hellickson suffer such a nasty injury, and they're lucky that he had the cat-like reflexes to catch the ball before it did any damage.
Hellickson turned what could've been a catastrophe into one of the top plays of the year, and fans took notice.
BTW that was an awesome play by @jhell58 last inning, heart stopped for a minute...gold glove for a reason tho that ball caught HIM— Andrew (@A_Katzman83) July 26, 2013
Not every day you see a man ward off death by catching a line drive. That's what Jeremy Hellickson just did.— Zachary D. Rymer (@zachrymer) July 26, 2013
You can bet that Hellickson will be all over SportsCenter tomorrow, but he probably just feels lucky to have avoided the ball.