TAMPA, Fla. — On the fourth anniversary of his first opening-day start — the infamous 68-pitch hook in Atlanta in 2018 — Aaron Nola threw 60 pitches here in his penultimate spring-training appearance for the Phillies.
It went like Nola’s previous two outings, with a few bad pitches getting hit hard. He gave up four runs on five hits, including a two-run homer by Marwin Gonzalez, in a 14-2 Yankees victory. Nola has allowed five homers in nine innings this spring.
”Yeah, not good,” he said. “I look back at it as fastballs right over the middle, and they’re not missing.”
But at least Nola got into the fifth inning. He will aim for six in his spring finale Sunday, which should enable him to pitch fairly deep into the game on opening day, April 8 against the Athletics at Citizens Bank Park, no small matter given the slower buildups for Ranger Suárez and ace Zack Wheeler.
”I thought he threw a number of good pitches,” manager Joe Girardi said. “He was facing a pretty good lineup. He got beat by the bottom, did a good job on the top. But he’s pretty close, I think.”
On the mound: Here‘s one way for a nonroster reliever to catch the manager‘s eye: Set down Joey Gallo, Aaron Judge, and Giancarlo Stanton on seven pitches. Right-hander Michael Kelly did just that in the seventh inning, the best he has looked in five outings this spring.
Who stood out: Seeking to lock down the backup catcher job, Garrett Stubbs capped a seven-pitch at-bat with an RBI single in the second inning, then cut down Gallo trying to steal second base in the third.
Etc.: Matt Vierling doubled off tough Yankees right-hander Chad Green, notable considering the Phillies are trying to decide whether to platoon him with lefty-hitting Mickey Moniak in center field. … Third baseman Alec Bohm went 0-for-2 with a walk and is 2-for-21 overall. … Nick Castellanos (1-for-3) continues to waggle his bat like Gary Sheffield, a timing mechanism that he believes will aid his pitch recognition. … The Yankees broke it open in the eighth inning against relievers Nick Duron and Brian Marconi.
Quotable: “My main focus is to really get ahead of guys and get my delivery in sync and just pound the zone as much as I can, take out the walks. And then just getting my up-downs and getting my pitch count up.” — Nola on his goal at this point in spring training.
Up next: Kyle Gibson will make his second-to-last spring-training start at 1:05 p.m. Wednesday against the Tigers. The game will be televised by NBC Sports Philadelphia+.