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Return to form for Nola could boost rotation

Righty hasn't pitched in a game since end of July
MLB.com @ToddZolecki

PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. -- Jeremy Hellickson said Sunday if Aaron Nola is the Phillies' No. 5 starter then they are in good shape.

Nola is better than a No. 5, but there are questions after he finished last season on the disabled list with a low-grade sprain of his ulner collateral ligament (UCL) and a low-grade strain of his flexor pronator tendon in his right elbow. He has had no issues throwing this spring and is set to make his Grapefruit League debut Thursday against the Blue Jays in Dunedin.

PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. -- Jeremy Hellickson said Sunday if Aaron Nola is the Phillies' No. 5 starter then they are in good shape.

Nola is better than a No. 5, but there are questions after he finished last season on the disabled list with a low-grade sprain of his ulner collateral ligament (UCL) and a low-grade strain of his flexor pronator tendon in his right elbow. He has had no issues throwing this spring and is set to make his Grapefruit League debut Thursday against the Blue Jays in Dunedin.

It will be his first time competing in a game since July 28.

"I'm very eager to see Nola," manager Pete Mackanin said after Wednesday's 5-5 tie with the Rays at Charlotte Sports Park. "I know he feels 100 percent. Let's see what he looks like. I think he's going to be fine. The key for him will be when we get into June, July and August, if he's going to hold up. That's the only concern I have. Not that I don't think he will, but that's the only thing in the back of my mind. I don't foresee issues early."

Nola, 23, went 5-4 with a 2.65 ERA in his first 12 starts last season, before finishing 1-5 with a 9.82 ERA in his final eight.

Altherr steps up

Phillies outfielder Aaron Altherr went 2-for-4 with three RBIs on Wednesday. He hit a bases-loaded triple in the fourth inning.

Altherr is expected to open the season as the team's No. 4 outfielder.

"[Hitting coach] Matt [Stairs] has him making an adjustment with his swing, trying to get the head out a little quicker," Mackanin said. "If he makes that adjustment, he's going to turn into the player I feel he has the chance to be."

Todd Zolecki has covered the Phillies since 2003, and for MLB.com since 2009. Follow him on Twitter and listen to his podcast.

Philadelphia Phillies, Aaron Nola