Phillies Name Aaron Nola Opening Day Starter
New Phillies manager Gabe Kapler made one of the bigger announcements a manager can make during Spring Training on Sunday. Aaron Nola will be the club's Opening Day starter, reports Jim Salisbury of NBC Sports Philadelphia. As Salisbury notes, Nola will be the youngest Phillies Opening Day starter since Dennis Bennett opened up for the 1964 Phillies.
Of the options currently on the roster, no one is close to Nola in terms of performance. Nola made 27 starts, going 12-11 with a 3.54 earned run average. Nola struck out 184 in 168 innings, walking 49 and allowing 154 hits. Many feel that there is room for Nola to do even better.
The offensive support Nola will receive in 2018 certainly will be better than 2017. With a stronger bullpen and less pressure, there very well may be an opportunity for Nola to exceed his output in 2017. Nola missed just shy of a month with a lower back strain suffered in April, but he is considered healthy.
The Phillies still reportedly are interested in adding a free agent starting pitcher. Should the Phillies add one, would Nola still be the Opening Day starter? Salisbury asked that question in his piece:
“Yes,” Kapler said in response to the question. “As of this moment, Aaron Nola is our opening day starter.”
The Jake Arrieta rumors likely will not stop until he signs with one team or another.
Either way, it is a nice honor to bestow upon Nola for now. While some argue that Nola profiles as a strong number two pitcher more so than an ace, Nola can keep the Phillies in a game against almost any other pitcher in the league. That is why the Phillies plan to give him the ball first.