Phillies fans get the young righty starter on opening day
Phillies manager Gabe Kapler named 24-year-old right-hander Aaron Nola the club’s opening day starter following an 8-3 shelling by the Yankees in Florida.
Nola went two innings in his spring debut allowing three earned runs off four hits while striking out three batters on Sunday. Kapler said the budding ace has earned the opportunity to start opening day March 29 in Atlanta.
This season will be Nola’s third on the opening day roster and his first opportunity to open the season. Former manager Pete Mackanin had given Nola the chance to be the home opening day starter for the last two seasons, but opted for the veteran Jeremy Hellickson for the season openers, both of which were in Cincinnati.
Nola flashed the ability to be a number one starter last summer with a 1.32 ERA in the month of July with 43 strikeouts in five appearances. An injury caused Nola to fall apart late in the season that required extra rest.
Even if the Phillies sign a veteran free agent pitcher such as Jake Arrieta or Alex Cobb, Nola was likely to be the opening day starter. Kapler is committed to his players and Nola has truly earned this opportunity over a pitcher who isn’t signed with the club.
Having experienced elbow issues and struggles in the major leagues Nola has the chance to prove he can be more than a solid number two starter in the major league rotation. He’s expected to lead a group consisting of Vince Velasquez, Jerad Eickhoff, Nick Pivetta, and one more young arm fighting for a job.
Ben Lively, Mark Leiter Jr., Jake Thompson, and Thomas Eshelman will compete for the fifth starter job if the organization does not sign a veteran free agent. Lively is expected to have the upper hand after making his major league debut last year.