Phillies tab Hellickson as Opening Day starter

Phillies tab Hellickson as Opening Day starter

KISSIMMEE, Fla. -- Jeremy Hellickson is the Phillies' Opening Day starter, manager Pete Mackanin announced Wednesday.

Right-hander Aaron Nola will start the second game of the season and the April 11 home opener against the Padres.

Hellickson to start opener

"Hellickson has experience, he's been pitching really well, so we'd like him to be the Opening Day starter," Mackanin said.

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Hellickson, who turns 29 on April 8, has allowed one run in seven Grapefruit League innings in his first camp with the Phillies after being acquired from the D-backs in November. Hellickson has said in the past how honored he'd be to receive the Opening Day nod in his seventh Major League season.

"I've been a part of five Opening Days now, and just the atmosphere -- standing on the line, seeing everything, how Opening Day goes down -- you kind of just think, 'Hopefully I can pitch one of these game sometime in my career,'" Hellickson said. "It's exciting, that's for sure."

Mackanin said Charlie Morton will follow Hellickson and Nola, while Jerad Eickhoff appears to have the edge for the No. 4 spot. Left-hander Adam Morgan and righty Vince Velasquez are still battling for the fifth spot.

Although the Phillies previously floated the idea of using a six-man rotation, Mackanin said Wednesday that is no longer under consideration because of roster constraints. With two spring starts remaining, Hellickson is gearing up for what he hopes will be a successful season as he approaches free agency. The right-hander won the 2011 American League Rookie of the Year Award, and he had a 3.10 ERA in '12, but he's posted a 4.86 ERA over the past three seasons with the Rays and D-backs.

Hellickson freely admitted free agency has crept into his mind, but he's looking more so at this season as a chance to make his mark.

"It's definitely an opportunity," Hellickson said. "I couldn't ask for a better situation to come into. You know, from top to bottom here, this organization is awesome. And all of the guys that I've got to meet so far, we've had a lot of fun so far. So we're all just excited for the season to get started."

Cash Kruth is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @cashkruth. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.