CLEARWATER, Fla. - Ryne Sandberg saw Aaron Nola pitch last month when the Phillies equipped a few minor-league pitchers to throw batting practice as part of a hit-and-run drill. The righthander did exactly what the team needed: throw strikes.
Sandberg will be looking for more of the same Friday when Nola, the team's top pitching prospect, starts against the New York Yankees.
"It's about allowing a guy like Nola to experience this and see what he can do in this environment," Sandberg said. "It goes a long way with development going down the road. I think it will be a good experience for him."
The Phillies selected Nola with the seventh overall pick in last June's draft. The 21-year-old was not invited to major-league spring training. He has spent the last month at the team's minor-league facility behind Bright House Field. He struck out three batters in three scoreless innings Sunday in a minor-league game against a Pittsburgh Pirates' affiliate.
Nola will likely begin the season at double-A Reading but has the chance to continue his quick advancement through the minors. He finished the season at Reading, where he allowed seven runs and 25 hits in 24 innings.
Severino Gonzalez, also a minor-leaguer, will start Tuesday against Atlanta in Orlando. The 22-year-old righthander made 27 starts last season at Reading. He went 9-13 with a 4.59 ERA and 115 strikeouts in 1581/3 innings. He is replacing Aaron Harang, who will stay in Clearwater and pitch in a minor-league game.
Cody Asche hit his third home run of the spring and third in five games Monday in a 3-0 win over the Twins. The Phillies' everyday third baseman drove the two-run homer to right-center. He has nine hits and seven RBIs in 39 at-bats this spring.
"Cody just has a real nice swing working," Sandberg said. "He's making good contact. Another thing he's doing is laying off of pitches, avoiding strikeouts, and having the count come back to him for strikes to hit."
Lefthander Mario Hollands (strained flexor tendon) will be back in Philadelphia Tuesday for an appointment with team doctor Michael Ciccotti.