LAKELAND, Fla. -- Brock Stassi's candidacy to win a spot on the Phillies' opening day roster seems to get stronger by the day.
The 27-year-old career minor-leaguer (see story) hit his third homer of the spring -- a grand slam -- to lead the Phillies' 11-6 win over the Detroit Tigers on Tuesday.
Stassi went 2 for 4 on the day and also walked and scored three runs. He is hitting .563 (9 for 16) with 11 RBIs and has played sound defense at first base and in left field. He is attempting to make the club as a backup at both positions.
"He's having a great spring," manager Pete Mackanin said. "He's making a bid for making this team. He's really looked good and is making a real good impression. He's doing everything right."
Stassi, a lefty hitter, drew a walk against Tigers ace Justin Verlander in the second inning and scored on a base hit by Pedro Florimon.
The grand slam came in the sixth inning against lefty Blaine Hardy. Stassi turned on a 2-1 fastball and lined it over the right-field wall with a short, quick stroke.
"I knew he had to come in with something," Stassi said. "He threw me a couple of off-speed pitches early and I knew he didn't want to go 3-1 with the bases loaded. I was sitting fastball and got it."
Some folks don't put much stock in spring training stats. These are, after all, exhibition games.
But for Stassi, they count. Big time.
"Guys always talk about saving it for the season, but for me there are no guarantees," Stassi said. "It's life or death out there for me right now and I'm just trying to stay positive and have quality at-bats and keep things rolling.
"Today is over. Come back tomorrow and get back to work."
Stassi is scheduled to start in left field against the Braves on Wednesday as Mackanin and the coaching staff evaluate him at the position.
Aaron Nola wasn't particularly sharp in his second spring outing, but the right-hander is not necessarily being graded on results.
What matters most is his health and after four spring innings, well …
"I really feel good," he said.
Nola missed the final two months of 2016 with an elbow strain, but he has no health-related limits this spring. He was scheduled to bump up to three innings on Tuesday, but a high pitch count in the first inning scuttled that. He ended up going two innings and giving up five hits, a walk and two runs. He struck out two. He threw 40 pitches.
"The plan was to go three, but I was spotty today and the pitch count got up pretty fast," Nola said.
"My command was off. I was missing over the plate on some pitches, but other than that I felt good. My arm felt good. My body felt good."
Mackanin was not alarmed by Nola's outing. He, too, is looking for good health.
"He looked a little rusty," Mackanin said. "He wasn't as bad as you think he was. He was just missing. (Catcher Ryan) Hanigan told me a lot of those pitches were pretty good pitches, so I was happy with that."
Nola pitched two scoreless innings against Toronto in his spring debut last week (see story).
The Phillies' bats exploded for 13 hits. Bryan Holaday also homered for the Phils.
Colton Murray, Jeanmar Gomez, Ben Lively and Cesar Ramos all pitched scoreless ball. Michael Mariot had to close it out after the Tigers rallied for four runs against Pedro Beato in the ninth.
Eflin, Thompson ramp up
Pitchers Zach Eflin and Jake Thompson both threw to hitters for the first time this spring on Tuesday and they could be ready for some game action next week.
The team has taken things slowly with both pitchers. Eflin had double knee surgery in the fall and Thompson reported to camp with a sore right wrist. Both are healthy now.
"I'm head over heels better than I've ever felt in my life," said Eflin, who had battled knee tendinitis for years. "I can't remember the last time that I felt like this. It's just a blessing. There's no pain at all."
Both pitchers project to be in the Triple A rotation, though it's unclear whether they will be ready to open the season in a month. It's quite possible that the Phillies will give Eflin a little extra time as he continues to build strength in his legs.
The Phillies play the Braves at Disney on Thursday afternoon. Jeremy Hellickson will start for the Phils. Here is the Phillies' posted lineup for the game:
Cesar Hernandez, 2B
Freddy Galvis, SS
Daniel Nava, DH
Maikel Franco, 3B
Tommy Joseph, 1B
Cameron Rupp, C
Brock Stassi, LF
Dylan Cozens, RF
Roman Quinn, CF