Jeremy Hellickson was brought to Philadelphia to provide the Phillies with some veteran leadership in the rotation. That, plus a good Spring performance, helped to put Hellickson in the role of being the Opening Day pitcher for the Phillies when they open the season April 4 in Cincinnati. Aaron Nola, who admitted he would like to be the number-one guy when he arrived in camp, will pitch in the second game of the season on April 6 and then throw in the Phillies home opener the following Monday afternoon against the San Diego Padres.
While Hellickson is entering his sixth major league season, he will be making his first Opening Day start.
"It's definitely a huge honor. I've been a part of five opening days now and just the atmosphere, standing on the line, seeing everything, how Opening Day goes down, you kind of think, 'hopefully, I can pitch one of these games some time in my career.' It's exciting, that's for sure," Hellickson told Jim Salisbury of CSNPhilly.com after getting word that he won the assignment. Charlie Morton will pitch out of the number-three spot in the rotation, with the fourth and fifth starters to be named later. Jerad Eickhoff figures to be in one of those spots, but which one hasn't been determined. Eickhoff got a late start to spring training because of a thumb injury, so he may be put in the fifth spot in the rotation, giving him a couple extra days before having to pitch. Brett Oberholtzer, Adam Morgan and Vincent Velasquez are battling for the fifth spot in the rotation, with Oberholtzer also being a candidate to pitch out of the revamped Phillies bullpen.
Manager Pete Mackanin told Salisbury that they have considered using a six-man rotation, but have scrapped that idea. Mackanin also admitted to Salisbury that having Nola start the home opener was one factor that went into how the team set up the rotation.
"We'd kind of like Nola to open up at home, that's the main thing," said Mackanin. "Nobody is better than the next guy as far as we're concerned. Hellickson has experience, he's been pitching really well, so we'd like him to be the opening day starter."