Sunday, February 28, 2016

Duo impresses during Phillies' win against University of Tampa

Jeremy Hellickson and Aaron Nola threw a combined 18 pitches in two perfect innings for the Phillies on Sunday at Bright House Field.
Their performances in an 8-3 victory against the University of Tampa meant little in the long run, but they are worth noting because one of the two pitchers is expected to be the Phillies' Opening Day starter on April 4 against the Reds in Cincinnati. The runner-up is expected to pitch the second game of the season on April 6, which would not be a bad consolation prize: He would also be in line to pitch the homer opener April 11 against the Padres.
"Yeah, I'd absolutely love the honor, but it doesn't matter one bit," Hellickson said about pitching Opening Day. "We're going to need all five guys to pitch how we're capable of pitching. I don't really think it matters who starts it off, but at the same time, it's a goal and it'd be fun."
"It'd be a cool thing," Nola said. "If you haven't done it before, if you haven't had an Opening Day start in your career, it would definitely be cool. But wherever they have me, I'm going to go out there and compete."
Nola said he would understand if the Phillies told him they preferred to ease him into the season, giving the nod to the more experienced Hellickson, who won the 2011 American League Rookie of the Year Award.
"Being on the field and competing against the batters, trying to get a win for the team, that's the focus," Nola said.
Hellickson, 28, went 9-12 with a 4.62 ERA in 27 starts last season with the D-backs. He has a 4.86 ERA in 72 appearances (71 starts) the past three seasons. The Phillies acquired him in an offseason trade with Arizona because they consider him a solid bounce-back candidate and they needed a veteran presence in the rotation.
Hellickson certainly has motivation to pitch well. He will become a free agent following the season, so a big year would help him on the open market. And if he pitches well, the Phillies could potentially deal him before the non-waiver Trade Deadline.
"I just really need to get back to being consistent," Hellickson said. "The last couple years I feel like I've thrown better than what the numbers said at the end, but my bad ones were just really, really bad. I couldn't stop the bleeding in those big innings. I've just got to be better out of the stretch with guys on base. Just be more consistent every five days. I can't give up one in seven [innings] one game and then give up five in three the next."
Nola threw fastballs and curveballs in his short stint, although he said he will be making a concerted effort to improve his changeup this spring.

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