Prophecy Phulphilled: Jeremy Hellickson Is Officially Your 2017 Opening Day Starter

( — It appeared all but certain last July that Jeremy Hellickson would finish the season wearing something other than red pinstripes. He had pitched well, the trade market was barren, and the Phillies were not invested long term in the veteran righthander.

Now, Hellickson is now the team’s highest-paid player, and he will start the first game for the second straight season — even if he thinks someone else is more deserving.

The team on Sunday named Hellickson, who turns 30 in April, its opening-day starter. The 2017 season will begin just as the 2016 one did, with Hellickson on the mound at Great American Ballpark in Cincinnati.

“He opened up for us last year and he had a real good year for us,” Phillies manager Pete Mackanin said. “I have a lot of confidence in him. I think he earned the right after last year.”

With Hellickson atop the rotation, the Phillies are likely to follow with Jerad Eickhoff and Clay Buchholz in Cincinnati. Then, for the home opener at Citizens Bank Park, Vince Velasquez would oppose Washington. That makes Aaron Nola the fifth starter. He started the second game last season.

Hellickson is the first Phillies pitcher to start consecutive opening days since Roy Halladay started three in a row from 2010-12. Mackanin said the team discussed the idea of opening with Eickhoff, a younger pitcher who posted a lower ERA and proved his big-league value, but instead chose experience.

Well we talked about it last month, but now it is official: Jeremy Hellickson will be on the bump for Opening Day in Cincy. Makes a lot of sense. Hellickson may have had his ups and downs, but he proved himself as the Phillies own “old reliable” last season. He and Jerad Eickhoff were the only two to pitch the entire season and Eickhoff needs a little more seasoning to be an Opening Day starter. Although as I said previously, Eickhoff can and likely will leapfrog past Hellickson on the rotation’s depth chart (or at least that’s what he has the potential to.
One aspect about Hellickson that I didn’t realize was that he’s now the highest-paid Phillie coming home with $17.2 million! Granted, the Phillies are flushed with all that Comcast money and so it may not matter that much but it’s certainly an interesting thought for this season at least.
The Reds series should be a lot more successful than last year’s sweep. That home-opening series against the Nats may not be as much fun to watch considering how Velasquez and Nola finished up 2016.
If you haven’t check it out yet, Matty D and I have started a podcast: The Bullpen Cart! Here’s the link to yesterday’s preview of the NL West that also included a breakdown of Team USA’s chances to win the World Baseball Classic!

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