Phillies: Mackanin Leaning Towards Hellickson for Opening Day

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Sep 23, 2016; New York City, NY, USA; Philadelphia Phillies starting pitcher Jeremy Hellickson (58) pitches against the New York Mets during the first inning at Citi Field. Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports
Sep 23, 2016; New York City, NY, USA; Philadelphia Phillies starting pitcher Jeremy Hellickson (58) pitches against the New York Mets during the first inning at Citi Field. Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports /
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Phillies manager Pete Mackanin has not made a final decision about the Opening Day starter, but he is leaning towards Jeremy Hellickson.

The Phillies have several options for their Opening Day starter in 2017, and manager Pete Mackanin is not ready to officially name a starter just yet. However, he offered up Jeremy Hellickson as the most likely option to take the ball when the season opens in Cincinnati April 3.

Mackanin told reporters, “Let’s put it this way: He’s probably got the best chance to be our opening-day starter…he was [the opening-day pitcher] last year — and I’m not making the announcement he will be this year — but there’s a good chance he might be.”

Hellickson, who turns 30 April 8, started Opening Day for Philadelphia in 2016 as well. If he were to start the opener again this year, it would be Hellickson’s second year in a row starting the year in Cincinnati.

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However, Mackanin still left the option open for other players to potentially take the job, saying “anything can happen in the spring.”

One player who could make his case for the first start of the year is the 26-year old rightie Jerad Eickhoff. In his first full major-league season in 2016, Eickhoff made 33 starts, posting a 3.65 ERA and 2.9 fWAR in 197.1 innings. He was the team’s most consistent starter and never missed an outing.

Some fans may want to see a pitcher start on Opening Day that is part of the team’s long-term plans. Hellickson returned to Philadelphia this year after accepting the club’s $17.2 million qualifying offer, but it is unlikely he will re-sign with the Phils next offseason. Teams were hesitant to sign Hellickson when they had to forefeit their first-round pick, but that won’t be the case in the next free agency period thanks to the new collective-bargaining agreement.

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CSN Philly’s Jim Salisbury made the argument for Eickhoff during the offseason, writing, “He’s earned it with his conduct and example. The guy approaches his craft with a maturity, dedication, work ethic and seriousness that is reminiscent of Roy Halladay.”

Jon Stolnis of The Good Phight also argued for Eickhoff over Hellickson:

"“Still, the Opening Day starter is a symbolic thing, and with the Phillies hoping to emerge from their rebuild within the next couple years, it would make more sense to give it to one of the young arms in the rotation – specifically one who has been the most consistent arm since joining the big league rotation late in 2015.”"

Next: Phillies 2017 Season Preview: CF Odubel Herrera

Things could still change between now and April 3, but at this point it appears Hellickson is lined up to start Opening Day for Philadelphia for the second year in a row.

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