The Phillies have selected right-hander Jeremy Hellickson as their Opening Day starter, per a team announcement on Sunday. Hellickson is slated to start against the Reds on April 3, when the Phillies will open their season on the road in Cincinnati.
This marks Hellickson’s second consecutive Opening Day assignment with Philadelphia. After signing a one-year, $7 million deal with the club in 2016, he delivered some of the best results of his career, turning in a 3.71 ERA, 3.42 K/BB and 3.2 fWAR in 189 innings. He accepted a $17.2 million qualifying offer at the end of the year and is scheduled to hit free agency following the 2017 season.
Grapefruit League competition has not been nearly as kind to Hellickson, tabbing him with 26 hits and 18 runs over 18 innings pitched this spring. His shaky start to the year doesn’t appear to have compromised either his starting role or his Opening Day gig, however, especially considering that he’s the highest-paid player on the roster and has a fairly stable track record in regular season play.
The Reds have yet to announce their Opening Day starter, though it will likely come down to left-hander Brandon Finnegan or right-hander Scott Feldman.
Cubs infielder/outfielder Ben Zobrist has been placed on the 10-day disabled list with back soreness. The move is retroactive to April 14. While it doesn’t appear to be the precursor to any serious injury, Zobrist has already missed six straight days of activity after feeling his back tighten up last weekend. Should he see the minimum time on the DL, as expected, he’ll be eligible to return by the start of the Cubs’ series against the Indians on Tuesday.
Prior to his injury, the 36-year-old outfielder raked an impressive .326/.408/.465 with three extra-base hits in 49 plate appearances. He last appeared for the Cubs during their homestand last weekend and helped propel the team to a 14-10 win over the Braves with three hits, two walks and two RBI. Provided that he can remain healthy going forward, it’s a promising start for the veteran outfielder, who has yet to return to the All-Star-worthy numbers he posted with the club in 2016.
With Zobrist sidelined for the time being, Ian Happ and Albert Almora Jr. have shared the leadoff spot and center field duties over the last week. Happ went 0-for-8 with six strikeouts in two games before passing the baton to Almora, who collected five hits and two RBI in 11 at-bats.