The bags and equipment were packed and loaded into the truck at the end of
last week, and now they’re all unpacked down in Clearwater as the Phillies pitchers and catchers report to spring training.
There are many familiar faces back in the rotation with the addition of another
veteran arm. What should fans know about these guys before spring training gets underway?
Buchholz, Hellickson long term solutions?
When the Phillies signed Jeremy Hellickson last season, there was a belief he would simply be a temporary arm used at the trade deadline to acquire a rising prospect. There were offers on the table but the Phillies opted to hold on to him and when his one-year deal expired at the end of this season, he could've walked. Instead he took the option to stay. The Phillies, seemingly using the same formula, brought in Bucholz this offseason after seeing how successful Hellickson was on and off the field in his bounce back campaign. Yet, the question remains the same for Hellickson and now Bucholz: are they here for the long haul or just temporary options? Considering the wealth of young arms in the organization that are knocking on the door, it seems that at least one of them will be flipped this deadline. In the meantime, though, the veterans will provide much needed talent and guidance for an otherwise youthful rotation.
What can be expected of Nola?
A few weeks back, manager Pete Mackanin said this organization knows what they're getting out of a Nola. He's got all the stuff to be an ace, it's a matter of staying healthy and putting all of his tools together. The LSU product flashed in his rookie season but took a step back last year as he was hit around a bit more. There's no reason to lose hope in Nola, who says he's 100 percent ready for all eyes to be on him this spring. Sustainability will be the key for the youngster moving forward into his third year.
Velasquez can be dominant
Through the first four months, Velasquez was 8-3 and proved to be the most imposing hurler on the staff. His complete game shutout with 16 strikeouts against the Padres was a thing of brilliance as he displayed what could be moving forward. His strong start to the season, though, was bookended with an 0-3 record over his final six starts as he went into the seventh inning in just one of those outings. Falling behind in the count has been an issue for him as he averaged just over five innings per start. While he may have been dominant early on despite his short outings, he'll have to find a way to get through batters and innings quicker in order to fully reach his potential. Once he does, he could very well be the clear-cut ace of this rotation.
Eickhoff is underrated
His 11-13 record aside, Eickhoff was actually pretty good all around last year and chances are, fans didn't even realize it. He's not as overpowering as Velasquez nor is he as talented as Nola, but the right-hander came into his own last year. He had a respectable 3.65 ERA on the season but more impressively, surrendered just 10 earned runs over his last six starts. On a staff with a high ceiling from 1-5, Eickhoff may very well be the most consistent of the bunch, and that's always a good thing to have.