Video: Lavy Heckles Panotch

Video: Lavy Heckles Panotch

Flyers beat writer Tim Panaccio was attempting to get Peter Laviolette to open up and talk a bit about his high-priced goalie Ilya Bryzgalov. After asking about the relationship between the Flyers coach and the their netminder, Panotch asks if Bryz is something of an "odd bird." Lavy's response is pretty fantastic.

Pete Mackanin hints that Jeremy Hellickson will be Phillies’ opening-day starter

Pete Mackanin hints that Jeremy Hellickson will be Phillies’ opening-day starter

CLEARWATER, Fla. — Phillies manager Pete Mackanin on Monday said he was not ready to name an opening day starter “because anything can happen in the spring.”

But Mackanin dropped a strong hint that veteran Jeremy Hellickson will get the nod for the second straight year when the Phillies open the season in Cincinnati on April 3.

“He’s probably got the best chance to be our opening-day starter,” Mackanin said after Monday’s workout. “I’m not going to definitely announce it because anything can happen in the spring. He was last year. I’m not making the announcement that he will be, but there’s a good chance he might be.”

Jerad Eickhoff, who led the Phillies' starting staff in innings (197⅓) and ERA (3.65) last season, is another candidate for the start, but it sounds as if he will slot in behind Hellickson.

On paper, the Phillies’ opening week rotation — barring something unforeseen — could be Hellickson, Eickhoff, Clay Buchholz, Vince Velasquez and Aaron Nola. Of course, as Mackanin said, “anything can happen in the spring,” so all of this is early-camp guess work.

Hellickson, who turns 30 on April 8, went 12-10 with a 3.71 ERA in 32 starts for the Phillies last season. He returned when the club extended him a $17.2 million qualifying offer for 2017. Hellickson accepted the Phillies’ one-year offer after considering free agency.

“He feels great,” Mackanin said. “He’s in a great frame of mind. I’m sure he would like to have gotten a five-year, $100 million contract from someone, but he’s real happy to be here and we’re happy to have him.”

Eflin takes the mound
Right-hander Zach Eflin returned to a bullpen mound Monday after being slowed last week by a bout of knee inflammation. He threw 40 pitches and reported no problems.

Eflin had double knee surgery in the fall so the Phils will take it slow with him. He projects to be in the Triple A rotation.

Looking good
Phillies pitchers continued to throw “live” batting practice Monday. Mackanin roamed four fields and got a look at all the arms. He liked what he saw of Pat Neshek, the submarine right-handed reliever that the Phils acquired from Houston in an offseason trade.

“I was watching Neshek throw live BP,” Mackanin said. “Not only does he have good movement on his fastball and a real nice sharp-breaking slider, but he threw some outrageous changeups that seemed to stop halfway to the plate. So I’m looking forward to seeing him compete in games.”

Give and Go: Describing Joel Embiid's standout rookie season

Give and Go: Describing Joel Embiid's standout rookie season

With the team at the All-Star break, our resident basketball analysts will discuss some of the hottest topics involving the Sixers.

Running the Give and Go are CSNPhilly.com producer/reporters Matt Haughton and Paul Hudrick.

In this edition, we describe Joel Embiid's rookie season.

Haughton
There are so many different ways to go when describing Joel Embiid's long-awaited rookie season.

The numbers say dominant. Embiid leads all rookies in points (20.2), rebounds (7.8) and blocks (2.4) per game. He's also second in field goal percentage (46.6) among first-year players.

Of course, the injury situation – and handling of it by the team – has made Embiid's first season a bit frustrating. After waiting two seasons for the center to overcome foot injuries, you can understand the team's cautious approach. However, the almost random playing patterns at times and the near radio silence on his medical status has left a bad taste.

Still, overall I would say Embiid's rookie campaign has been refreshing for the franchise. Following three straight seasons of absolute abysmal basketball, the Sixers finally appear to have a real building block. 

Not only that, but Embiid gives them a charismatic personality that is filling up the Wells Fargo Center again and being recognized on a national stage. You can't ask for much more after what the organization endured in recent years.

Hudrick
Describing Embiid's season depends on which perspective you're looking at it from. 

When he's been on the court, it's been unbelievable. He's a 22-year-old Cameroonian who's only been playing the game of basketball for a few years. He also didn't play for two years after two foot surgeries. Even with all that, he's been the most exciting basketball player this city has seen since Allen Iverson.

From a statistical standpoint, his numbers align with some of the greatest rookie big men of all time. While mentioning Embiid and Hakeem Olajuwon in the same breath may be premature, it's an indication of just how spectacular has been. Their rookie seasons actually compare favorably.

Of course, the injuries are concerning. Will he ever be a full-time player? Embiid recently expressed his interest in playing back-to-back games. The organization won't give him the opportunity this year and I'm not sure how many opportunities they'll give him in the future. 

With that said, Embiid can still make an impact in 60-something games a season. When he's on the court, he can be one of the most dominant players in the league. When healthy, Embiid is the most exciting athlete in Philadelphia.