LAKELAND, Fla. - Aaron Nola's second start of spring training was cut short Tuesday afternoon because of a high pitch count, but the righthander was mostly concerned about his elbow, which caused him to miss the final two months of last season.
"I think going forward right now, maintaining a healthy body and healthy arm is big for me," Nola said. "So far it's been healthy. I feel really good."
Nola was scheduled to pitch the first three innings of an 11-6 Grapefruit League win over Detroit at Joker Marchant Stadium. He was finished after needing 40 pitches to get through two innings. His fastball topped out at 92 mph. Nola allowed two runs on five hits, struck out two, and walked one. Nola said his fastball command was "spotty."
"I was kind of missing over the plate on some pitches," Nola said. "But other than that, I felt good. My arm felt good. My body felt good."
Nola entered spring training with no limitations after recovering from a low-grade sprain of his ulnar collateral ligament and a low-grade strain of the flexor tendon in his right elbow last season. Manager Pete Mackanin said the real test to Nola's health will not come in Grapefruit League games but this summer, when the righthander is pitching every fifth day.
Brock Stassi hit a grand slam in the sixth to continue his push for one of the final spots on the opening-day roster. It was Stassi's third homer of the spring, which ties him with Maikel Franco for the team lead. The lefthanded hitter's grand slam came against a lefthanded pitcher. He also worked a leadoff walk against Tigers ace Justin Verlander in the second inning.
"Stassi is making a really good impression," manager Pete Mackanin said. "We saw him last year. We know what he's capable of doing. There's competition and he's competing and doing well."
The first baseman played all nine innings, the final six of which he spent in left field. His versatility helps his case for a roster spot. Stassi said he felt "really comfortable" in the outfield. He played there in high school and college.
"Guys always talk about save it for the season, but for me, there's no guarantees," said Stassi, who was a 33rd round pick in 2011. "It's life or death out there for me right now."
Zach Eflin and Jake Thompson pitched against batters for the first time this spring as they continue to work back from injuries.
Eflin is still recovering from double knee surgery. Thompson injured his wrist shortly before camp opened. Both pitchers expect to be ready for the start of the season. The righthanders are projected to begin the year in the triple-A rotation. They could soon pitch in Grapefruit League games.
"I'm head over heels better than I've ever felt in my life. I can't remember the last time that I felt like this. It's just a blessing," Eflin said. "It's really crazy to sit here and say I don't feel anything, because I've always felt something. It feels stronger, it feels healthier, it feels awesome."