Aaron Nola will be Phillies’ Opening Day starter, but not because he deserves to be

Jun 19, 2021; San Francisco, California, USA; Philadelphia Phillies starting pitcher Aaron Nola (27) throws the ball to first base to try and catch a San Francisco Giants runner talking a lead off during the first inning at Oracle Park. Mandatory Credit: Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports
Jun 19, 2021; San Francisco, California, USA; Philadelphia Phillies starting pitcher Aaron Nola (27) throws the ball to first base to try and catch a San Francisco Giants runner talking a lead off during the first inning at Oracle Park. Mandatory Credit: Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports /
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Aaron Nola on track to be the Phillies’ Opening Day starting pitcher

Barring unforeseen disruptions to the schedule, Aaron Nola is on track to be the Philadelphia Phillies‘ Opening Day starting pitcher.

It will be his fifth year getting the honor, but this time, it’s not because he’s earned it; he’s simply the natural substitute for Zack Wheeler, who likely won’t be ready for Opening Day.

Wheeler threw a 42-pitch bullpen session on Wednesday and said that he felt like the ball was “coming out good.” His offseason throwing routine was delayed by shoulder soreness, which isn’t a surprise, as he led MLB with 213 1/3 innings – a new career-high – in 2021.

While Wheeler thinks he’ll still be ready to pitch when the season starts, Opening Day is a big reach for him now, as he has yet to throw live BP or pitch in a spring training game.

Personally, I would’ve liked to see Ranger Suárez get the nod after his spectacular 2021 performance. Moving from the bullpen to the starting rotation is no small feat, and he made the switch almost seamlessly, so much so that by the end of the season, he pitched a complete-game shutout on less than 100 pitches, or what’s known as a Maddux game.

Suárez pitched in 39 games last year, including 12 starts beginning in August, his first time back in the rotation since 2018. He posted a 1.12 ERA over 27 relief appearances from May to July, and then a 1.51 ERA as a starting pitcher between August and October. He did it all last year, and he did it well.

As seen during the Golden Era when the Phillies had a starting rotation that boasted Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee, and Cole Hamels, the starting rotation is the linchpin of the team. Hopefully, Nola gets the season started on the right foot.

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