What’s up: Philadelphia’s starting pitching has resembled the Rockies’ from days gone by — ineffective and unable to pitch deep into games. In fact, Phillies starters had pitched six or more innings just six times during the team’s 4-15 slide beginning April 27. That’s why Hellickson’s six strong innings against the Pirates Friday night was so welcome. He allowed just two hits and two runs in six innings, but then trouble struck when he tweaked his lower back during an at-bat in the seven inning. He was lined up to face the Rockies this week, but now that start is in doubt.
Background: After a solid 2016 season — 32 starts, 3.71 ERA — Hellickson accepted the Phillies’ $17.2 million qualifying offer. He responded with an excellent early-season performances, posting a 1.80 ERA through his first five starts. But up until Friday night’s strong start, May had been a difficult month for the right-hander. In one game against the Cubs and two against the Nationals, he had a 7.90 ERA in 13 ⅔ innings.
Saunders’ take: Hellickson could be prime trade bait this summer, according to the Boston Globe’s Nick Cafardo, who recently wrote: “Phillies personnel have made it known they’ll listen on Hellickson in trade talks. Philadelphia re-signed Hellickson with the idea of using him to acquire more prospects before the trading deadline.” Hellickson was the subject of hot rumors at last summer’s trade deadline but the Phillies couldn’t swing a deal. He’ll be a free agent after this season and it’s doubtful he’ll sign a long-term deal with Philadelphia. He’s not a star pitcher worth trading valuable prospects for, but his consistency could make him a valuable rental for a contender looking for depth during the final two months of the season.