This spring Aaron Nola has tossed 7.1 innings, giving up 11 hits and five earned runs. Opposing hitters are batting .344 against him, and he has an ERA north of six. But he has said repeatedly, after his three spring training starts, that he feels healthy. Despite the numbers, so far, so good for Nola and fans.
St. Patrick’s Day may be a barometer for spring judgments, but not in this case. The only concern with Nola is getting him out of spring training in one piece. Pete Mackanin said the real test for his young righthander will come in April, when he’s expected to take the ball every fifth day in higher pressure situations. Really, it has been a good warmup for the real test.
As we all know, spring training stats should be taken with a grain of salt. Usually the results are the last thing on the minds of established major league players. Getting into their routines and finding the right timing are much more important than hitting “X” amount of home runs or striking out “X” amount of batters. Last spring training Nola had a 4.42 ERA and allowed 17 hits in 18.1 innings. He even surrendered four home runs. And in the first two months of the year he was arguably a top-10 pitcher in the league and the anchor of his own staff.
One takeaway from the spring is that Nola’s fastball topped out at 92 MPH in his second outing against Detroit. Over the last two seasons, Nola’s fastball has averaged just over 90 MPH. The fact that he’s topping out at 92 is a good indication his arm is fine right now. But even the top priority on Nola’s mind is, again, not results, but staying healthy. He told Philly.com’s Matt Breen that after a poor statistical outing, he is really more concerned about his health. “I think going forward, maintaining a healthy body and healthy arm is big for me. So far it’s been healthy. My body felt good.”
Mackanin said it best: the real test has yet to come. But, as of today, he says he’s 100 percent, which isn’t bad news to anyone.