Aaron Nola

Nola shows off the full arsenal in a sharp spring debut

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The contract's new, the setting's the same old, same old for Aaron Nola.

In his first game action since re-upping with the Phillies three months ago for $172 million over seven years, Nola was sharp with two 1-2-3 innings in the spring home opener at BayCare Ballpark in front of 10,212 fans. He was happy with how his pitches looked and so was every other Phillies arm as they no-hit a split-squad Yankees lineup until the eighth inning.

Nola threw 33 pitches and utilized his full arsenal — 12 four-seam fastballs, nine two-seamers, six changeups, three cutters and only three curveballs.

"Obviously, the fastball command is number one coming into spring training," Nola said on the broadcast after exiting. "Games are getting started and everything stems off of that. The changeup, I want to work on that a little bit more, get it more consistent. The cutter; I throw a lot of curveballs and I feel like everybody knows it."

Nola threw his curveball 31.6% of the time last season, his highest usage since 2019. It's one of his trademarks, but he did give up 14 home runs with Uncle Charlie in 2023 compared to eight total the prior two years.

Nola has numerous weapons. The sinker and changeup can also be plus pitches within at-bats, innings or starts. His opponents hit .221 off the change last season and .200 against the sinker the year before. He wants his changeup to be more consistent in the strike zone and preached what you'd expect — first-pitch strikes, not falling behind in counts.

"Just want to make sure every pitch is crisp right off the bat," Nola said. "I've had quite a few spring trainings now and I have a good idea of what I want to accomplish each outing going into the season."

Matt Strahm, Jeff Hoffman, Jose Alvarado, Mick Abel, Seranthony Dominguez, Gregory Soto and Austin Brice kept the Yankees' bats off balance after Nola. A Greg Allen walk was the only baserunner through seven innings. Granted, not a single key Yankees hitter made the trip to Clearwater. Aaron Judge, Juan Soto, Anthony Rizzo, Gleyber Torres and Alex Verdugo all started in the other split-squad game in Tampa.

"I'm happy with it today," manager Rob Thomson said. "We had some walks yesterday (in a 14-13 win). Our guys were getting ahead, staying ahead, getting some soft contact. Everyone performed very well today."

The Phillies won the game, 4-0. Cristian Pache hit an RBI single in the second inning and a solo home run to left-center in the fourth. Pache is one of a slew of Phillies battling for what appears to be one bench job. Others in the mix include Jake Cave, Weston Wilson, Darick Hall, Kody Clemens and non-roster invitees David Dahl, Scott Kingery and Cal Stevenson. It would appear Pache has the best chance of them all. He plays above-average defense in center field, and while he hasn't proven to be much of a hitter in the majors, he did pick up a handful of clutch knocks last season, including a game-winning home run in Miami. He hit .256/.341/.449 in 89 plate appearances after his rough introductory week as a Phillie.

The Phils begin the week in Fort Myers, where they'll visit the Red Sox and Twins. David Buchanan and Cristopher Sanchez will start, in that order.

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