Globe iconLogin iconRecap iconSearch iconTickets icon
news

MLB News arrow-downArrow Down icon Arrow Up icon

Nola leaving little doubt who will start opener

@ToddZolecki
July 18, 2020

Is there any question that Aaron Nola is ready for Opening Day? The right-hander recorded 17 outs on just 62 pitches in Saturday’s night 7-2 exhibition victory against Washington at Nationals Park. He allowed one hit and one walk, striking out four. Nola pitched so effectively and efficiently that two

Is there any question that Aaron Nola is ready for Opening Day?

The right-hander recorded 17 outs on just 62 pitches in Saturday’s night 7-2 exhibition victory against Washington at Nationals Park. He allowed one hit and one walk, striking out four.

Nola pitched so effectively and efficiently that two of his five "innings" were extended by a fourth out so he could get more practice in preparation for Opening Day on Friday against the Marlins at Citizens Bank Park, which appears to be his day.

“I feel like I’m ready,” Nola said. “I think the five up-and-downs that I did definitely helped. I think that’s the biggest thing for starters, especially me. Just to start and stop every inning, get off the mound. It’s a good conditioning for me to be ready.

“I think I’ll know [about the opener] in the next few days. Today, I just wanted to go five innings and get my pitch count up and get ready for whenever I’m on the mound again.”

Nola missed the first few days of camp because he came in contact with somebody who tested positive for COVID-19, putting him slightly behind schedule. Manager Joe Girardi has stopped short of saying that Nola will be his Opening Day starter, but there is little reason to think it will be anybody else at this point.

“We had planned four [innings] and 70 [pitches], and his pitch count was so low that we had to get some extra outs in the innings, and we let him get five and we really felt comfortable with what he did,” Girardi said. “I thought his changeup was outstanding. He was ahead in the count all night. It was just really a good performance.”

Meanwhile, right-hander Zach Eflin threw two innings in a simulated game earlier at Citizens Bank Park. He missed several days recently because of lower back spasms, putting him behind schedule. Girardi said it went well, and Eflin will pitch again Thursday.

Based on Eflin’s schedule, he will not pitch until the fifth game of the season on July 28 against the Yankees at the earliest -- if the Phillies believe he is ready.

“Hopefully we can build him up more so that he’s definitely in the mix,” Girardi said.

Didi, Harper go deep
Phillies shortstop Didi Gregorius hit an 0-2 pitch for a three-run home run against Nationals ace Max Scherzer in the first inning. Bryce Harper hit a three-run homer against his former teammate in the second inning.

“I think you want guys to take advantage of mistakes, no matter what part of the season it is,” Girardi said. “I liked our at-bats. He settled down and we saw the real Max Scherzer, but when you have a starter of that caliber, if you don’t get to him early, you’re not getting to him. And our guys were able to do that. And that’s encouraging.”

Walker makes the team
The Phillies announced Saturday that veteran infielder Neil Walker made the Opening Day roster.

“His versatility of where he can play and also his versatility as a switch-hitter,” Girardi said about why they chose Walker. “We thought he was a good fit.”

The Phillies granted releases to infielder Logan Forsythe and left-hander Francisco Liriano. Walker, Forsythe and Liriano entered Spring Training as non-roster invitees, with Liriano thought of as a favorite to make the team. He went 5-3 with a 3.47 ERA in 69 relief appearances last season with the Pirates. But Girardi raved recently about the left-handed pitching talent in camp. He added that there is a “good chance” the team looks to some of the organization’s younger lefties for spots on the Opening Day roster.

Left-handers José Álvarez and Adam Morgan are locks to make the team. Lefty Cole Irvin is a smart bet. Garrett Cleavinger and JoJo Romero are the other healthy lefties on the 40-man roster. Lefties Damon Jones and Austin Davis are in camp as non-roster invitees.

“We might go with a little more youth,” Girardi said.

The Phillies optioned right-hander Víctor Arano to Triple-A, but Girardi called it a procedural move. He said he hopes Arano can make two more appearances before Opening Day, giving him a chance to make the roster. The Phillies also removed catcher Henri Lartigue from the 60-man player pool.

Todd Zolecki has covered the Phillies since 2003, and for MLB.com since 2009. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook .