Phillies' Nola begins adjusting to life as a pro

Aaron Nola, here at his introductory news conference, gave up five runs in three innings Monday for Clearwater. "I got humbled a little bit," he said.
Aaron Nola, here at his introductory news conference, gave up five runs in three innings Monday for Clearwater. "I got humbled a little bit," he said. (RON CORTES / Staff)
Posted: June 30, 2014

When the Phillies selected Aaron Nola with the seventh overall pick in the draft earlier this month, some projected a flawless transition to professional baseball, a dominant college pitcher using the minor leagues as a pit stop.

Not so fast, the Phillies say.

In his first professional start Monday, Nola struggled. Pitching with a three-inning limit, he was fine for the first two before running into trouble in the third. He gave up five runs in the inning, four of which were earned. Heralded for his control, the 21-year-old righthander uncharacteristically walked three batters in the outing.

"I got humbled a little bit," Nola said. "It happens. . . . Overall, I felt good. That's what matters for me right now."

The Phillies have no plans to rush Nola. There are other adjustments to be made, Phillies director of player development Joe Jordan said, and one start means little in the big picture.

"The transition to professional baseball, the transition to our routine, those types of things are way, way out front much more than getting this guy built up to pitch seven innings, eight innings," Jordan said.

For the Phillies, this year isn't about Nola's becoming a dominant minor-league pitcher. Jordan said the target is for Nola to throw around 160 or 170 total innings, including the 1161/3 he threw in the spring for Louisiana State, by the end of the summer.

The organization is working on getting Nola used to a five-day pitching rotation instead of the seven-day rotation used in college. It will be a gradual process, and Jordan expects Nola to pitch every six days for the time being.

Even though the team isn't rushing Nola, Jordan said it's possible the team will promote him late in the season to expose him to a new level of competition.

The organization also wants Nola to pitch the whole summer so he can experience the rigor of an entire professional season. This means many of his starts will be short so he does not exceed his innings limit.

"We're in it for the long haul," Jordan said. "We feel like this guy's going to be an important piece of our major-league rotation at some point in time, and it should be quicker than some. But there's a lot to accomplish between now and then."

Nola's next start will be Tuesday night. He was away from Clearwater over the weekend to receive the 2014 national pitcher of the year award from the College Baseball Foundation in Lubbock, Texas. Now it's time to focus on adjusting to the professional ranks.


mcohen@phillynews.com

@MaxACohen

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