Sports

Baseball Begins Again- Philadelphia Phillies prepare for season opener

      On April 3, the Philadelphia Phillies will begin the 2017 MLB season against the Cincinnati Reds at 4:10 p.m. in Great American Ball Park. Jeremy Hellickson is expected to get on the mound for the Phillies, which will make it Hellickson’s second-straight Opening Day start. The Reds plan to put Scott Feldman to pitch for his third career Opening Day start (his first start with the Reds).

      Feldman, a right-handed veteran pitcher, signed a one-year deal with the Reds during the offseason. When he was interviewed about his opinion on starting this year, he said, “It’s pretty cool, I know about the history of Cincinnati, being, like, the capital of Opening Day.”

      In a similar respect Jeremy Hellickson is looking forward to performing a second act of a dominating start like last season on April 4 at Great American Ball Park. Hellickson pitched for the Phillies, allowing only one unearned run with three hits in six innings, while not giving up a walk and striking out six.

      “He opened up for us last year and had a real good year for us,” Phillies manager Pete Mackanin said. “I have a lot of confidence in him. I think he earned the right.”

      Hellickson finds himself in a young, talented Phillies rotation with promising pitching, as evident in spring training. The Phillies rotation is expected to include Jared Eickhoff, Clay Buchholz, Vince Velasquez and Aaron Nola, in that order. Mackanin is hopeful in the young rotation, highlighting key pitchers like Velasquez and Nola.

      “I feel good about the rotation,” Mackanin said. “Especially with Velasquez and Nola [who started the second game last year] at four and five, whichever way they go. We just have to be careful with both of them. We don’t want to baby them, but it’s a nice rotation when you have those two guys at the end.”

      “It’s a huge honor, it definitely matters,” Hellickson said. “There’s another guy on our staff who probably deserved it a little more, in my opinion. What [Eickhoff] did last year was pretty remarkable for his first full year. I would have loved to have seen him get it. But I see plenty of Opening Day starts in his future.”

      This season, Philly fans can expect Philadelphia not just to hand over easy wins to opposing teams. A positive factor of having a fairly young roster is that many players can simultaneously have a breakout season, and opponents are still left guessing the players’ rhythm and style of play. The Phillies will have double-trouble at shortstop, with flexibility to use either Freddy Gravis or J.P. Crawford. Both players are good defensemen, and Crawford is a young, talented power hitter. Tommy Joseph will reprise his position at first base on the 2017 roster. Joseph contributes a strong bat within the Phillies lineup that should continue to give hope to fans for years to come.

      For the Phillies Home Opening Day on April 7 at Citizens Bank Park, Velasquez will take the ball  against the Washington Nationals.

      Sources: ESPN, philadelphia.phillies.mlb.com

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