CLEARWATER, Fla. -- Pete Mackanin has made it official.
Jeremy Hellickson will be the Phillies' Opening Day starter for the second year in a row two weeks from Monday in Cincinnati.
Mackanin made the announcement Sunday morning.
Mackanin's choice is not surprising. Earlier this spring, he mentioned that Hellickson had the "best chance" to get the opening day nod. The right-hander, who will turn 30 on April 8, went 12-10 with a 3.71 ERA in 32 starts for the Phillies last season.
Hellickson pitched six walk-free innings, gave up three hits and just an unearned run while striking out six in the first Opening Day start of his career last season in Cincinnati.
Hellickson could have become a free agent after last season, but he opted to return to the Phillies after the club extended him a qualifying offer of $17.2 million in the offseason. That makes him the highest-paid player on the club.
The Phillies entertained trade offers for Hellickson last summer, but could not swing a deal of their liking. The team will listen on Hellickson again this summer and there could be more urgency to deal him because he is bound for free agency (the team can not make him another one-year qualifying offer) and is probably not a long-term fit as the Phils look to build a young rotation.
Hellickson will offer some trade value if he pitches well, but some of it could be mitigated by his high salary. The Phillies do have a history of eating some salary for the right return. They did it in the trades that moved Cole Hamels, Marlon Byrd and Jonathan Papelbon for prospects.
After Hellickson, the Phillies will send Jerad Eickhoff to the mound, followed by Clay Buchholz, Vince Velasquez and Aaron Nola.
Velasquez lines up to pitch the home opener April 7 against the Nationals.