Phillies make the right choice for Opening Day starter, ending an impressive streak

Staff ace Zack Wheeler will take the ball for the Phillies on Opening Day later this month.

Zack Wheeler will take the ball for the Philadelphia Phillies on Opening Day.
Zack Wheeler will take the ball for the Philadelphia Phillies on Opening Day. / Julio Aguilar/GettyImages
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Being able to pitch the first game of the MLB season has always been a distinguished honor for any major league pitcher. Not only does it mean the team truly believes in them and their abilities to lead the way, but it helps set the tone for team success, hopefully for the rest of the season. In the case of the Philadelphia Phillies, they have just one goal in 2024, which is to finally capture the World Series title that has eluded them the past two seasons.

To pave the way for a winning season ahead, manager Rob Thomson has officially named Zack Wheeler as the Opening Day starter for this year. It makes total sense to have Wheeler kickstart 2024 by leading off the Phillies’ starting rotation. After all, he has been everything the Phillies have hoped for since he joined the organization during the 2019-2020 offseason.

In four seasons with the ballclub, Wheeler has compiled a 43-25 record with a stellar 3.06 ERA, 137 ERA+, 1.06 WHIP, along with 675 strikeouts in 629 1/3 innings. He has also come up big during the postseason for the Phillies, amassing a 2.42 ERA and 0.73 WHIP with four wins and 68 strikeouts in just 63 1/3 innings in 11 playoff games.

He has also been named an All-Star and finished second in 2021 NL Cy Young voting. He was the Phillies' most consistent and reliable starter last season and signed a mammoth three-year extension this offseason, so he deserves the unique honor.

Aaron Nola's Opening Day streak comes to an end

However, it ends an impressive streak of six consecutive Opening Day starts by long-time tenured Phillie Aaron Nola. That was the third-longest streak in team history behind Robin Roberts (12) and Steve Carlton (10). Nola has been the heart and soul of the team ever since making his MLB debut with the club back in 2015. But being the great teammate that he is, there was no hard feelings when he found out that Wheeler would get the nod for 2024. That was because just two weeks prior, Nola personally vouched for it to happen, as reported by Todd Zolecki of MLB.com.

“Wheels should take it [the Opening Day start],” Nola said, per Zolecki. “He’s earned it, man.”

For the excited Wheeler, who had never started a season opener before, he took on the great opportunity with true humility and respect for his beloved teammate and friend.

“It’s special,” Wheeler explained via Zolecki. “It’s a pretty cool honor … He’s [Nola] done it for how many years? Six years in a row … It was a pretty cool thing going.”

But given the pedigree of the two stud pitchers, it shouldn’t matter too much who ultimately got the call for the season opener. More important is the fact that with both Wheeler and Nola anchoring the Phillies’ rotation once again in 2024, they will do everything they can to help carry the load and lead the team to finish some unfinished business this time around.

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