Written by: Dan Wilson
Image from: ja.wikapedia.org
CLEARWATER — When Aaron Nola signed to a four-year, $45 million contract extension on February 13th, the Phillies committed themselves to an ace long term.
On Tuesday, the 25-year-old right-hander took the mound at Spectrum Field for the first time since signing the extension, throwing three scoreless innings, allowing just one hit and one walk to go along with three strikeouts.
“Nola looked like Nola,” Phillies manager Gabe Kapler said. “Especially in the first inning, he had high-velocity numbers and dropped his curveball in there beautifully.”
Nola, along with the rest of the starting rotation, had their respective spring debuts pushed back. Jake Arrieta and Zach Eflin each pitched for the first time over the weekend while Vince Velasquez will debut on Wednesday.
“I like it,” Nola said. “I think we all agree and like it. First time up and three innings. It feels good. I threw two innings of up-and-downs in live BP with 40 pitches. It felt good.”
Also making his spring debut was Nick Pivetta, who pitched 2⅓ shutout innings while allowing a hit and three walks. Pivetta, who recorded a 4.77 ERA last year, will look to take a major step forward in 2019.
While the Phillies projected Opening Day lineup has four new faces to go along with some new additions to the bullpen, the starting rotation has gone untouched this offseason.
Through 6½ innings, Tuesday’s game remained scoreless. Sean Rodriguez gave the Phillies the lead on a sacrifice fly in the 7th but the Cardinals answered in the top of the 8th.
With two outs in the 9th inning, the Phils strung together three consecutive hits, capped off by a walk-off double by shortstop Malquin Canelo, to improve to 7-2 in Spring Training and send those who stuck it out in the unseasonably cold Florida weather home happy.
“Our pitching from top to bottom was outstanding today,” Kapler said. “I think knowing what we know, from what we learned last year, I think we’ll be better equipped to go deep into the season with our [pitching staff] and tackle October as well.”