Aaron Nola may not give the Phillies any choice for the Opening Day starter

The longtime Phillies Opening Day starter may not even be with the team when they open the 2024 season.
Philadelphia Phillies starting pitcher Aaron Nola might not give the team a choice about who gets the ball on Opening Day
Philadelphia Phillies starting pitcher Aaron Nola might not give the team a choice about who gets the ball on Opening Day / Nathan Ray Seebeck-USA TODAY Sports

The Philadelphia Phillies are just over two weeks from Opening Day at Citizens Bank Park, and let the friendly debate begin over which starter should toe the rubber when the Phillies take on the rival Braves on March 28.

For much of his time in a Phillies uniform, starting Opening Day was a forgone conclusion for Aaron Nola. Nola's six Opening Day starts are third all-time, following Phillies greats Robin Roberts’ 12 starts (1950-61) and Steve Carlton’s 10 starts (1977-86). So should the veteran righty who signed a seven-year, $172 million deal to stay in Philadelphia make it seven in a row?

Nola recently spoke with MLB.com Phillies insider Todd Zolecki about how he views the prospect of starting his seventh straight opening day, and Nola was quick to suggest another name to get that honor.

“I think Wheels [Zack Wheeler] should take it,” said Nola per Zolecki. “I think he’s earned it, man. That stuff’s great and all, but the baby is on the way. We’ll have to figure out when the little one is coming. It might be around that day.”

According to the report, Nola and his wife are expecting their first child around the same time the season starts. While that could be a factor in Rob Thomson's decision, it shows a lot about Nola's character that he would be willing to end his streak to give fellow ace Zack Wheeler the honor of starting his first Opening Day in a Phillies uniform.

So far this spring, Nola is still trying to find his form. He is 1-1 in three starts with a rough 7.27 ERA while allowing 13 hits and seven runs (all earned) in 8 2/3 innings pitched. If Nola can regain the form of his dominant first start, the recent couple of appearances will be looked at as only a minor blemish.

The starting rotation is finally healthy as spring training rolls on

Saturday marked the much-anticipated spring training debut of right-hander Taijuan Walker. Slowed by knee soreness to begin camp, Walker progressed from throwing bullpen sessions to finally making a Grapefruit League start.

In two innings, Walker struck out three, while walking one and allowing two hits and one run during his first taste of game action. By all indications, his knee issue was never considered serious, and it seems Walker made it through his scheduled two innings without experiencing any setbacks.

Walker's fastball was noticeably lacking its typical velocity, sitting between 88-89 miles per hour during the start. Typically a 93 to 94 mph offering, Walker's fastball was clearly lacking on Saturday Speaking to Cory Seidman of NBC Sports Philadelphia after the game, Walker explained why his fastball is still a bit behind as he enters gameplay.

"Honestly, yeah, only because of my build-up [missing time]," explained Walker per Seidman. It's expected. "I really only got one live (batting practice) in, a couple of bullpen (sessions)."

With plenty of spring training opportunities left over the final couple of weeks, Walker's drop in velocity is probably not a major concern yet. It's obviously something to monitor before the Phillies break camp at the end of March.