For the sixth straight season, Aaron Nola will be on the mound for the Phillies for Opening Day Thursday afternoon in Texas. The Rangers have announced that Nola will be opposed by former Mets pitcher Jacob deGrom. Manager Rob Thompson also marked Zack Wheeler as the number-two starter. The rest of the rotation is not completely clear, but Taijuan Walker figures to be the starter for the third game Sunday April 2 in Texas and lefty Bailey Falter is the likely go-to man for the fourth game of the season, which will be the following day in New York when the Phillies face the Yankees.
Nola is headed for a major payday following the season when he will be eligible for free agency. Estimates are that Nola will get a long deal that will go past the $150-million mark. Nola came up big down the stretch last season with four strong September starts and then in two playoff starts did not allow a run against the Cardinals or the Braves.
In his eight seasons with the Phillies, Nola is 78-62 with a 3.60 ERA. The 30-year-old Nola made a major league high 34 starts in 2019 after winning a career-high 17 games in 2018 when he made his lone all-star appearance and was third in Cy Young Award voting. Last season, Nola was fourth in Cy Young voting, going 11-13, 3.25 with 32 starts.
The Phillies come into the season with injury issues that have affected how the rotation has been set up. Top prospect Andrew Painter was shut down after one spring start with elbow tenderness and Ranger Suarez has not pitched much after battling elbow inflammation. The Phillies were looking at Painter, Falter, Cristopher Sanchez, and Nick Nelson as potential fifth starters, but Sanchez (left triceps tightness) and Nelson (strained left hamstring) have also been hampered by injuries this spring.
Lefty Matt Strahm, who the Phillies signed to a two-year, $15-million deal during the offseason, is being stretched out for a potential move from the bullpen to the starting rotation. He is now battling Michael Plassmeyer for the fifth spot.