The Phillies and manager Pete Mackaninhave finished sculpting the 2017 Opening Day roster, rotation and lineup, and Aaron Nola — once the Phillies' future ace starter — will be pitching Saturday against the Nationals, the Phillies fifth game of the season.
Nola was shut down with a right elbow injury last August, following a stellar 6-2 start with lackluster results in the dog days of summer. He's been rested and has rehabbed and is throwing with some extra pop.
"We've seen good velocity, the best he's had, but command is the last thing you get back," Mackanin said."The reason he's the No. 5 starter is to back off him and keep an eye on him."
Nola has been less than stellar during spring training but it's hard to accurately judge performances from exhibition games.
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"[Jared]Eickhoff and Nola worked a lot on their changeups," the skipper said."Where they normally wouldn't pitch it that much during the course of the season, they wanted to see how it felt coming out of their hand … when we face teams we are going to face during the season, we don't pitch to them they way we would pitch during the regular season."
So, according to Mackanin, fans shouldn't worry about his 0-3 record and 8.38 ERA this spring, or about the fact that he'll be the last man — positionwise at least — on the Phillies rotation.
Once he gets his command back, hopefully soon, Nola will be back on track to live up to his No. 7 overall pick status from 2014.