Phillie Phodder: Aaron Nola's health, Roman Quinn's status, closer job

Phillie Phodder: Aaron Nola's health, Roman Quinn's status, closer job

READING, Pa. — Perhaps the most important issue facing the Phillies as they get set to open spring training is the health of pitcher Aaron Nola.

It won’t be possible to fully gauge the right-hander’s condition until he starts firing pitches against hitters in a competitive situation in February and March.

But less than a month before camp opens, Nola is optimistic that the elbow problems that forced him to miss the final two months of the 2016 season are resolved.

“I feel like the injury is past me,” he said during a Phillies winter caravan stop sponsored by the Double A Reading Fightin Phils on Tuesday night. “I feel back to normal.

“My arm is all good. One-hundred percent.”

Nola, 23, did not pitch after July 28 last season after being diagnosed with a pair of injuries near his elbow — a sprained ulnar collateral ligament and a strained flexor tendon.

Nola and the team opted for a conservative treatment plan that included rest, rehab and a PRP injection. The pitcher spent much of the fall on a rehab program in Clearwater that included his throwing from a bullpen mound. He took a couple of months off and recently began throwing again near his home in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.

“All through the rehab, I had no pain,” Nola said. “Probably in the middle of the rehab, I started feeling really good. Towards the end, I started upping the intensity a little bit. I knew after I took two months off I was going to be good. I started back up, throwing after Christmas and it felt really good when I cranked up. I’ve been throwing for a few weeks now. No pain, no hesitation. Not any of it.”

The Phillies selected Nola with the seventh overall pick in the 2014 draft with the hopes that he would be a foundation piece in the rotation for many years. Nola ascended to the majors in the summer of 2015 and recorded a 3.12 ERA in his first 25 big-league starts before hitting severe turbulence last summer. He had a 9.82 ERA in his final eight starts of 2016 before injuring his elbow during his final start.

Nola said he would report to Clearwater on Feb. 1. He does not expect to have any limitations in camp.

Manager Pete Mackanin is eager to see what Nola looks like in Clearwater.

“There's a part of me that’s concerned,” Mackanin said. “When guys don't have surgery and they mend with just rest, that makes me a little nervous. I don't want that to crop up again because then you lose a couple years instead of one year. But I defer to the medical people and believe in what they say and how he feels.”

Mackanin said he expected Nola to be in the five-man rotation along with Jeremy Hellickson, Jerad Eickhoff, Clay Buchholz and Vince Velasquez to open the season. Mackanin also mentioned Zach Eflin and others as being in the mix. The Phillies have some starting pitching depth and that’s a plus because pitchers' arms are fragile. Nola was the latest example of that last season. He said he’s healthy now, but he'll still be a center of attention in spring training.

More seasoning for Quinn
Mackanin acknowledged that the addition of veteran outfielder Michael Saunders probably means that Roman Quinn will open the season in Triple A.

“I don’t think it’s in our best interest or [Quinn’s] to be a part-time player at the big-league level, so I would think if things stay the way they are and if Saunders is on the team, I think it would behoove Quinn to play a full year of Triple A,” Mackanin said. “We have to find out if he can play 120 or 140 games, which he hasn’t done up to this point. We hope he can because, to me, he’s a potential game changer.”

Morgan to the bullpen?
Mackanin suggested that lefty Adam Morgan could be used as a reliever in camp. The Phillies have just one lefty reliever (Joely Rodriguez) on their 40-man roster. If Morgan pitches well out of the bullpen, he could be a candidate to make the club. Non-roster lefties Sean Burnett and Cesar Ramos could also be in the mix.

Another chance for Gomez
Jeanmar Gomez saved 37 games in 2016 before struggling down the stretch and losing the closer’s job. Hector Neris finished up in the role.

So how will competition for the job shake out in Clearwater?

“I wouldn’t say it’s wide open,” Mackanin said. “I’m going to give Gomez every opportunity to show that he’s the guy that pitched the first five months and not the guy that pitched in September.”

MLB Notes: Cardinals closer Trevor Rosenthal to have Tommy John surgery

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MLB Notes: Cardinals closer Trevor Rosenthal to have Tommy John surgery

ST. LOUIS -- The St. Louis Cardinals announced Wednesday that closer Trevor Rosenthal was being moved from the 10-day disabled list to the 60-day DL and that the right elbow injury would require Tommy John surgery.

"I think just the timing of it, being right in the middle of this race and the way my personal season had been taking shape and the way the team has been playing recently. Tough timing," Rosenthal said.

"It felt like we were getting in a groove, I was in a groove, and to kind of have this happen and take a piece away from a really good team is a little bit of a bummer."

Rosenthal, who recorded 93 saves in 2014-15, lost the closer's job a year ago to Seung Hwan Oh but reclaimed it this season after Oh struggled. Rosenthal recorded 11 saves, giving him 118 over the past four seasons.

Cardinals general manager Mike Girsch said Rosenthal will have surgery next week.

"We hoped for better news," Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said. ". Somebody is going to have to step in. He was really throwing the ball well."

Red Sox: Team acquires OF Davis from A’s
CLEVELAND -- The AL East-leading Boston Red Sox have boosted their outfield depth by acquiring speedy Rajai Davis from the Oakland Athletics for a minor league outfielder.

The Red Sox sent 18-year-old Rafael Rincones to the last-place A's on Wednesday. Hours earlier, Boston put center fielder Jackie Bradley Jr. on the 10-day disabled list because of a sprained left thumb.

Davis is expected to join the Red Sox in Cleveland on Thursday for a game between division leaders. He hit .233 with 26 stolen bases, five home runs and 18 RBIs in 100 games with Oakland this season.

The 36-year-old Davis is in his 12th big league season. He led the American League with 43 steals last year for Cleveland, and also hit a big home run in Game 7 of the World Series off Cubs closer Aroldis Chapman.

Davis also has played for Pittsburgh, San Francisco, Toronto and Detroit. He didn't play Wednesday in Oakland's 8-7 loss in 12 innings at Baltimore.

The Red Sox designated outfielder outfielder Steve Selsky for assignment.

Cubs: Rizzo’s eagerness to play 3B quickly wanes
CINCINNATI -- Anthony Rizzo didn't hesitate when Cubs manager Joe Maddon asked if he'd finish the game at third base, a position he'd never played at any point in his career.

Can't be that hard, right? Even if he is left-handed and would have to turn his body to throw to his normal spot at first base?

"I said `Yeah, I can play,'" Rizzo said on Wednesday . "I can field ground balls and throw. It's really as simple as you can make it."

Simple in theory. In practice, Rizzo discovered that it's a whole different world on the other side of the infield.

Just for fun, Maddon moved Rizzo to third base on Tuesday night after Kris Bryant got hit in the hand by a pitch and went for X-rays that were negative. Rizzo played his unaccustomed spot in the ninth inning and didn't get a ball hit his way as the Cubs finished off a 13-9 win over the Cincinnati Reds.

Rizzo became only the third left-handed third baseman in Cubs history. The other two were in the 1800s. Although eager for the new experience, he started having second thoughts when he actually saw Joey Votto -- the Reds' first batter of the ninth inning -- dig in at the plate.

"I was not prepared at all," Rizzo said. "I've maybe taken ground balls there once this year, just to mess around."

Tonight's lineup: Tommy Joseph remains; Pedro Florimon starts in RF

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Tonight's lineup: Tommy Joseph remains; Pedro Florimon starts in RF

With Odubel Herrera and Aaron Altherr both on the disabled list, manager Pete Mackanin continues to stick with Tommy Joseph as the Phillies' everyday first basemen.

Joseph is in the lineup batting fifth for Wednesday night's game against the Marlins, with red-hot Rhys Hoskins batting third and playing left field. Hoskins, who shares the same natural position as Joseph, has made just two starts at first since his promotion to the bigs. 

After getting the day off in the Phils' win over the Giants on Sunday, Joseph began to climb out his dreadful 5 for 56 slump in Tuesday's doubleheader with a pair of home runs and three hits overall. Meanwhile, Hoskins continued his hot streak by blasting his sixth home run and bringing his average up to .244, a far cry from his 1 for 13 start.

In right field, Pedro Florimon will make his second start since being called up from Triple A Lehigh Valley. The 30-year-old utility man is 4 for 11 with four RBIs in five game appearances with the Phils. 

Behind the plate, Jorge Alfaro gets the start over Cameron Rupp, who hit a home run in his third straight game in the Phillies' first loss on Tuesday. In 33 plate appearances, Alfaro is hitting .333/.333/.424 with one home run and three RBIs.

Here is the Phils' full lineup:
1. Cesar Hernandez, 2B
2. Freddy Galvis, SS
3. Nick Williams, CF
4. Rhys Hoskins, LF
5. Tommy Joseph, 1B
6. Maikel Franco, 3B
7. Pedro Florimon, RF
8. Jorge Alfaro, C
9. Mark Leiter Jr., P

And for the Marlins: 
1. Dee Gordon, 2B
2. Giancarlo Stanton, RF
3. Christian Yelich, CF
4. Marcell Ozuna, LF
5. J.T. Realmuto, C
6. Derek Dietrich, 3B
7. Tomas Telis, 1B
8. Miguel Rojas, SS
9. Justin Nicolino, P

For more on tonight's game, check out Tom Dougherty's game notes.