Aaron Nola missed his final start of the season’s first half after being placed on the COVID-19 injured list for having close contact with an infected teammate. But the Phillies pitcher said the events of the last week have not motivated him or other unvaccinated teammates to get vaccinated against the virus.
“I don’t think it motivates anybody. It’s a personal choice,” Nola said Friday after rejoining the Phillies at Citizens Bank Park. “I’ll leave it at that. I don’t know what other guys are doing. I think you just have to be careful.”
Nola is scheduled to pitch against the Yankees on Tuesday in New York after being unable to pitch this weekend against Miami due to being placed on the COVID-19 list. Third baseman Alec Bohm tested positive last weekend in Boston and three Phillies -- Nola and relief pitchers Bailey Falter and Connor Brogdon -- were deemed close contacts.
Falter returned to the team Friday and Brogdon is expected to return Saturday. Only Bohm, Phillies manager Joe Girardi said, tested positive. Nola left Boston on Sunday morning in a private car and was driven back to Philadelphia. He said he wasn’t nervous that he might have contracted the virus.
“I felt fine,” Nola said. “I didn’t think I was around Bohm that much.”
The Phillies are one of seven major league teams to not have at least 85% of their traveling party -- players, coaches, and essential staff -- receive the vaccination. Until they reach that threshold, the players have to wear tracking devices, which is what provided the data to place Nola and the other two pitchers into COVID-19 safety protocols.
“I don’t know. It’s a personal choice,” Nola said when asked if he would reconsider his stance on being vaccinated. “Not right now. I’ll keep it at that.”
The Phillies have filmed public service announcements this season to encourage fans to get vaccinated and even the Phillie Phanatic got vaccinated in an effort to motivate others to do so. The team held a vaccine clinic at the ballpark and offered free tickets last month to people who received the vaccine at city clinics.
Yet that campaign seemed to contradict the decisions made by a sizable group of players who have declined to be vaccinated.
“I can’t tell everyone what their personal opinion should be,” said Girardi, whose photo of being vaccinated was used by the team to promote their vaccination night at the ballpark. “That’s not what I’m trying to do. I felt it was safe for me. There’s a lot of things I believe in that other people don’t believe in. That’s OK. That’s what makes our world go round and round.”
But isn’t it hard for the Phillies to tell fans to get vaccinated when players are declining to do so?
“I think it tells everyone who’s out there in our community that we understand it’s a personal choice,” Girardi said.
Since Nola will start Tuesday, his time on the COVID-19 injured list cost him just one start, which was a game the Phillies won. They overcame their competitive disadvantage last Sunday at Fenway Park and were fortunate that the All-Star break meant that four of Nola’s days away from the team were off days.
The Phillies do not expect to reach the 85% threshold. Girardi said “the people who haven’t got vaccinated probably won’t get vaccinated.” Therefore the chances remain that what happened last week can happen again.
If it does, the Phillies could be deep in a playoff race and they won’t have four built-in off days then to help ease the ramifications of the personal choices their players make.
“That’s crossed our minds. We have to be careful,” Nola said. “I just think it’s our personal choices. It’s each guy’s choice to do it or not do it.”
A return of Hamels?
The Phillies scouted free agent Cole Hamels at his pitching session Friday in Texas, and Girardi would be on board with the team reuniting with their 2008 World Series hero.
“He knows how to compete. That’s what you know he knows how to do,” Girardi said. “He knows how to pitch. He knows how to handle the Philadelphia market.”
Hamels, 37, made just one start last season with Atlanta after being troubled by injuries. He was ineffective at the end of 2019 with the Cubs, but Hamels said that was because he rushed back too soon from an oblique injury. He needed to prove on Friday that he was healthy.
“If it was to happen, I hope it would be a huge addition,” Girardi said. “We would want him to come in and go undefeated. I know he was a fierce competitor and that never leaves people.”
Nick Maton was scratched from the lineup for the first game of Friday’s doubleheader after cutting his right middle finger during batting practice. ...The Phillies are optimistic Odúbel Herrera can return from the injured list on Tuesday. ... Sam Coonrod threw off the mound Friday afternoon as the reliever works his way back from a forearm injury. ... Vince Velasquez will start Saturday night against Miami right-hander Zach Thompson.