Aaron Nola was thought to be one of the most advanced pitchers in the 2014 MLB Draft.
Few knew just how advanced he was.
Nola, less than a year and a half removed from being chosen No. 7 overall by the Phillies in last year's draft, turned in another strong start Friday, holding the Padres to one run on two hits over seven innings in the Phillies' 7-1 victory. The win improved Nola to 5-1 through eight major league starts, owning a 3.26 ERA, 1.07 WHIP and 40/14 K/BB ratio over 49 2/3 innings of work.
Those are certainly the kind of numbers expected of a first-round pick, but not many 22-year-olds fare so well in their taste of major league action. Add in that Nola pitches for a team vying for the league's worst record and his body of work is all the more impressive.
"The guy throws strikes down in the zone," Phillies interim manager Pete Mackanin said. "His breaking ball has improved since he's been here. He's got movement, deception and a very good presence on the mound. He's fun to watch pitch. He's been doing a great job for us."
Coming out of Louisiana State University, Nola was assessed to have advanced command but lacked the pure stuff of some of his contemporaries. With that command, Nola breezed through the minors, dominating at every stop. He made five starts at Double-A Reading before the end of his first season in pro ball, and the right-hander owned a 2.39 ERA in 18 minor league starts this year before being promoted.
On Friday, the Padres could muster only a solo home run by Justin Upton in the fourth inning. It was the third straight start in which Nola allowed four hits or fewer, and the fifth start this year that he's struck out at least six batters.
The Phillies finally began the rebuilding process this season, and Nola is among the centerpieces of the team's future. It will be worth watching how far Nola advances in the years to come.
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Springer Set For Rehab
The AL West-leading Astros are set to add a middle-of-the-order bat shortly after the waiver trade deadline.
George Springer, who has been sidelined since July 2 after suffering multiple displaced fractures on his right wrist on a HBP, was cleared Friday to begin a rehab assignment. Springer will join Double-A Corpus Christi starting Saturday.
Springer was given the thumbs up after taking batting practice prior to the Astros' game against the Twins.
Springer will play right field and likely lead off for Corpus Christi, and Hinch said the organization already has a plan in place for Springer's playing time over the next few days. Hinch said much of Springer's timetable will be determined by how his wrist reacts to game action, but the first-year Astros manager said the organization won't hesitate to promote the 25-year-old if he looks good.
“It’s hard to tell whether it would take one to three days, three to five days, five to seven days," Hinch said. "We’re going to make sure he’s ready to compete at this level before we bring him back, but we don’t want to give away any days when he could help us win up here. We’ll gauge it every day.”
Fantasy owners would be wise to monitor Springer's progress on a daily basis starting next week.
Stroman Making Strides
Perhaps it's time to start believing, too.
Stroman rolled through another test Friday in his return from ACL surgery earlier this year, throwing 51 pitches in a simulated game at the team's minor league complex in Dunedin, Florida. The session went well enough that Stroman is already scheduled to make a rehab start for Class-A Lansing on Wednesday.
Stroman will make at least one more, with Triple-A Buffalo on September 7, but Blue Jays manager John Gibbons left the door open for Stroman's return assuming all goes well.
Not only that, but Gibbons said Stroman could return as a starter for a team currently leading the American League East.
"It might give everybody else a breather," Gibbons said. "If he comes back and he's really good, he could turn some things upside down, I guess you could say."
Stroman's return could be huge for the Jays, who have gotten starts from 11 different pitchers this season. The right-hander posted a strong 3.65 ERA, 1.17 WHIP and 111/28 K/BB ratio over 130 2/3 innings during his rookie season in 2014.
National League Quick Hits: The Dodgers made an expected move Friday, placing Yasiel Puig on the 15-day disabled list with a right hamstring strain. The team recalled infielder Jose Peraza to take Puig's spot on the roster ... A day after Denard Span hit the disabled list with left hip inflammation, it was announced Friday that the outfielder will undergo season-ending surgery on the hip. The Nationals will utilize Michael Taylor -- when he returns from a knee injury of his own in a few days -- in center field for the rest of 2015 ... Matt Kemp missed a second straight game Friday with left shoulder soreness. He's still day-to-day at this point ... Jon Jay (wrist) reported to Triple-A Memphis but didn't begin his rehab assignment Friday. The outfielder, on the shelf since June 30, could be back in a few weeks following his rehab assignment ... Justin Morneau (concussion) began a rehab assignment with Double-A New Britain on Friday. Morneau has been out since mid-May with the latest round of concussion issues ... with Matt Cain hitting the disabled list on Friday -- the team called it nerve irritation in his right elbow, although ineffectiveness could have just as easily been the cause -- Chris Heston will return and start in Cain's place Sunday. Heston was demoted to give him a rest, but with the Giants in the thick of a playoff race it will likely be the last time Heston misses a start this year ... Clayton Kershaw did Clayton Kershaw things against the Cubs, striking out 14 over eight innings in a victory. The southpaw allowed a lone run on an Anthony Rizzo homer, yielding just three hits and a walk during his stay. Kershaw improved to 11-6 with a 2.24 ERA, 0.90 WHIP and 236/33 K/BB ratio in 26 starts.
American League Quick Hits: Carlos Correa missed a second straight game with a sore left hamstring. It's not a huge concern for now, and the Astros will surely be cautious with their 20-year-old star ... Hanley Ramirez missed Friday's game due to shoulder fatigue. How serious the injury is, and how long Ramirez could be sidelined, remains uncertain ... Miguel Sano is dealing with a minor right hamstring injury that kept him out of Friday's game. The third baseman will hopefully return as a designated hitter for Saturday's game ... Mark Teixeira (shin) remains sore and could be sent for more tests. A disabled list stint may be in the cards for the 35-year-old ... The Mariners, 10 games under .500 after Friday's win, fired general manager Jack Zduriencik prior to the game. The M's missed the postseason every year, never finishing higher than third in the AL West, during Jack Z's tenure ... Mike Zunino, one of Zduriencik's big misses in the draft, was demoted to Triple-A Friday after slashing .174/.230/.300 through 112 games. The equally offensively challenged John Hicks was recalled to take Zunino's spot ... Josh Hamilton (knee) took batting practice on Friday. An activation from the disabled list could come as soon as Monday ... Danny Salazar missed Friday's scheduled start due to illness. It's unclear when Salazar will slot back into the Indians' rotation, but he shouldn't miss any turns ... Rougned Odor missed another contest with his cracked right middle fingernail. He's been out since Tuesday, but he should be back in a few days ... Jacoby Ellsbury (hip) returned to the Yankees' lineup Friday after sitting out Wednesday. He didn't contribute much to their lopsided win over the Braves, but the same couldn't be said for Didi Gregorius. Gregorius finished 4-for-5 with a home run and six RBI in the game ... Clay Buchholz (elbow) was officially ruled out from returning in 2015. The Red Sox have a decision to make on the right-hander's $13 million option for next season ... Glen Perkins (back) returned Friday, striking out two in a scoreless inning of work, but he didn't get the save opportunity. That went to Kevin Jepsen, who will continue to close until Twins manager Paul Molitor sees that Perkins is healthy. Given Friday's results, that could be sooner than later.