By Joseph Santoliquito

PHILADELPHIA, PA (CBS) — The numbers are a little frightening: 18 runs and 28 hits over 19.1 innings pitched, and a staggering ERA of 8.38 and opposing hitters batting .329 against him—and this was in spring training.

Still, Phillies’ manager Pete Mackanin believes in Aaron Nola, who will start in Game 2 of the Phillies’ home-opening series against the defending National League East Division champion Washington Nationals on Saturday.

“What I’m happy about is the velocity he showed in spring training, which means, hopefully, that his arm is healthy,” Mackanin said before the Phils’ home opener on Friday. “He didn’t show his typical command of his fastball, but I’m hoping that’s going to come next. The main thing was to see if his arm was healthy and it certainly looks like it. He’s worked on a changeup and I’m anxious to see him pitch, see what his does. He was overthrowing a little bit because he felt so strong in the spring but the main thing is he’s healthy.”

Last season, Nola had struggled before the Phillies finally shut him down in August with a sprained elbow. The injury did not require surgery and Nola said this spring that he’s fully healthy. He was 1-7 over his last eight starts, and felt something was wrong.

“We talked about his velocity was down a little bit,” Mackanin recalled. “We thought maybe that was it but other than that your guess is as good as mine. The thing that I always like about him, that made him special was his ability to hit the corners at the knees on both sides of the plate. That was what set everything else up for him. If you think about it he got a lot of called third strikes.

“He’d throw three fastballs and strike a guy out on three pitches because they were looking for something soft and he’d dot an ‘I’ on the outside corner down at the knees. Then he just didn’t seem to be able to do that when he wasn’t pitching as well. So was it his arm? Was it, who knows what it was? A sophomore jinx? I don’t know what it was. I hope that he’s beyond that. The fact that his velocity was up in spring means a lot.”


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