Aaron Nola tinkers with a new pitch as he gets set to start opening day


It's always news when the manager names his opening day starter.

Even when it's a no-brainer.

And even if it's not official.

Since the start of spring training games, it has been clear that Aaron Nola would make his fourth straight opening day start for the Phillies on April 1 against the Atlanta Braves.

Nola lines up that way on the calendar with Zack Wheeler, Zach Eflin, Matt Moore and Chase Anderson behind him.

Though manager Joe Girardi has not made any official announcement, he essentially confirmed his plan to start Nola on opening day after the right-hander's outing on Tuesday.

"I have not (told Nola yet)," Girardi said. "But what's the saying about the tea leaves?"

Girardi then laughed.

It's possible that Girardi will save an official announcement until a day when things go a little better for the Phillies. They were pounded, 14-5, by the Toronto Blue Jays on Tuesday. The Jays' powerful young lineup produced 21 hits. Nola allowed seven hits and six runs in 2⅔ innings. Vladimir Guerrero Jr. doubled twice against Nola.

Veteran relievers Brandon Kintzler and Tony Watson were also hit hard. Both are trying to make the team on minor-league deals and had previously pitched well in camp.

"It seemed like their fastballs got hit," Girardi said. "That comes down to location with those two guys. They made some mistakes with the fastball."

Girardi actually liked what he saw of Nola.

"He had life on his fastball," he said. "He just made mistakes with two strikes. But I liked his stuff. The results just weren't there."

Nola used his typical repertoire of four-seam fastball, two-seam fastball, breaking ball and changeup. He also threw a couple of cutters.

"I think it can be a weapon for him," Girardi said. 

Nola said he tinkered with a cutter in college and has always wanted to add one. Now seems like a good time.

"I've always wanted to throw one but never took it into a game," he said. "I found a grip I like this year. It's not something I'm going to throw a lot, but I think I can use it to my advantage. I'll keep throwing it and see where it goes."

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