More Sports:

February 20, 2017

Phillies Notes: Hellickson the early favorite for Opening Day start?

CLEARWATER, Fla. – The Phillies, along with every other team in baseball, have the luxury of taking things a little slower this spring since camp is a little longer. The World Baseball Classic brings every team to their respective Spring Training homes nearly a week longer than usual.

It allows managers to ease their pitchers into action, not rushing them into too much work in February with a whole slate of exhibition games awaiting in March, too. But given the duration of camp, doesn’t there have to be some structure in place, too, mapping out the work for each pitcher according to who might be the first two to take the mound when the regular season begins in Cincinnati in six weeks?

“You have to be close,” manager Pete Mackanin said. “I know (the media) wants to know who is going to be the Opening Day starter.”

Perhaps. So should we read between the lines after Mackanin mentioned he would limit veteran right-hander Jeremy Hellickson’s workload early in camp?

“Well, let’s put it this way, he’s probably got the best chance of being our Opening Day starter,” Mackanin said. “I’m not definitely announcing it (yet) because anything can happen in the spring. But he was last year and, I’m not making the announcement, but there’s a good chance that he will be. So, if you’re in that area, him, (Jerad) Eickhoff, (Clay) Buchholz, even (Vince) Velasquez and (Aaron) Nola, they’ve got to be close (to on schedule). When we get a week or two into, then you’ll be able to guess without me announcing anything.”

The 29-year-old Hellickson went 12-10 with a 3.71 ERA in 32 starts in his first season with the Phillies last season. He turned down the opportunity to hit free agency when he accepted a $17.2 million qualifying offer from the team in November.

Hellickson allowed one unearned run on three hits in six innings on Opening Day last season, which coincidentally also took place at Great American Ball Park in Cincinnati.

“He feels great,” Mackanin said of Hellickson’s progress in the first week of camp. “He threw a bullpen (Sunday morning), felt great and he threw well. So he’s in a good frame of mind. He’s so happy to be back here. I’m sure he would have liked to get a five-year, $100 million deal from somebody, but he’s really happy to be here and we’re happy to have him.”


A playlist that included Tom Petty, Led Zeppelin, and a mix of latin music blared through the Carpenter Complex on Monday afternoon, when the Phillies held their fourth full-squad workout of Spring Training.

The Phillies routinely have music playing through the speakers when they take regular pregame batting practice at Citizens Bank Park in the regular season and at the newly-renamed Spectrum Field in Clearwater during Spring Training, but this was the first time in recent memory that they added it into their morning workouts at the Carpenter Complex.

“Pete wanted it,” said Freddy Galvis, who often plays the role of DJ in the clubhouse.

“That was fun, huh?” Mackanin said. “I wanted to do it last year but we didn’t have the speaker system to do it. It was an eclectic mix.”

What was the thinking behind adding music to the workouts?

“This is the most fun time of the year,” Mackanin said. “I want everybody happy. Why not? Keeps it lively.”

Mackanin wouldn’t say if it was his own music.

“I like Charlie Puth and Sam Smith and Meghan Trainor,” Mackanin said to a reaction of laughs. “I do. What’s so funny about that? They’re good singers, I like good singers.”


     • Zach Eflin threw a bullpen session on Monday morning and was in good spirits afterward. Eflin, who has undergone two knee surgeries since August, skipped a throwing session late last week after experiencing swelling in his right knee. 

     • The Phillies will have their annual team golf outing on Tuesday afternoon. Among those on Pete Mackanin’s team: fellow coaches Larry Bowa, Matt Stairs, and John McLaren. Mackanin used the top pick in the draft to take Phillies' media relations staff member Chris Ware

     • The Phillies exhibition season schedule gets underway on Thursday at 1:05 p.m. when they host the University of Tampa. Mackanin expects to play more of the younger players in camp, like Roman Quinn, Nick Williams, and Dylan Cozens, with the regulars likely making their spring debut on Friday in the Grapefruit League opener in Tampa against the New York Yankees.

Follow Ryan on Twitter: @ryanlawrence21