Phillies to Skip Aaron Nola’s Next Start Heading into All-Star Break; Who Gets the Start?

Jun 16, 2016; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Philadelphia Phillies starting pitcher Aaron Nola (27) walks past teammates in the dugout after being relieved in the fourth inning against the Toronto Blue Jays at Citizens Bank Park. Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports
Jun 16, 2016; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Philadelphia Phillies starting pitcher Aaron Nola (27) walks past teammates in the dugout after being relieved in the fourth inning against the Toronto Blue Jays at Citizens Bank Park. Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports /
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Phillies will skip Aaron Nola’s final start heading into the All-Star break

Former first round pick Aaron Nola has been struggling mentally this season. It is something apparent on the mound when he gets into tough situations and is thrown into a “Groundhogs Day” scenario every other five days.

To help him clear his head going into the second half of the season, the Phillies will skip Nola’s scheduled start for Thursday.

Phillies manager Pete MacKanin says the club will evaluate over the next couple of days who will fill in for Nola Thursday in Colorado.

“I feel like any time you have some time off, it definitely helps,” Nola said after pitching just five innings against the Kansas City Royals this weekend. “This is my first full season here and they want to watch me, but I’m still going to go out and try to throw as many innings as I can and throw as much as I can. If you ask anybody, we all want to be pitching every fifth day. It’s what they want to do and I understand. But hopefully it will help.”

With the atmosphere in Colorado allowing balls to travel much further, now is as good a time as ever to let Nola concentrate on the remainder of the season.

A situation the Phillies will most likely lean-towards is featuring some of their long-men out in the bullpen for the series opener in Colorado. Adam Morgan, Brett Oberholtzer, and Severino Gonzalez each have a history of starting in the major leagues. Pete MacKanin and pitching coach Bob McClure could monitor those three this week, and make a determination as to who is rested enough to go at least five innings Thursday evening.

Oberholtzer would be the veteran option to lean towards, as well as someone the Phillies could be looking to swap at the trade deadline in three weeks. Showing off his ability to be a back-of-the-rotation starter could help General Manager Matt Klentak in the long-haul as he tries to improve the club in his first season at the helm.

As far as calling up another prospect, the options may be thinner than perceived. Top pitching prospect Jake Thompson has dramatically improved with Lehigh Valley in the month of June, posting a .76 ERA in five games, and holding opponents to a .211 batting average. His last start was on Friday, so he theoretically would be rested enough to pitch against the Rockies.

However, having your top prospect make his major league debut in Colorado does not sound like the smartest move for a team focused on the future. Despite struggling in the standings this season, the Rockies have hit 55 home runs in Coors Field this season (tied for second most in the NL) and are hitting a league best .305 at home.

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If the Phillies, however unlikely, are hell-bent on getting Jake Thompson major league experience before he is a lock in the rotation, they could realistically start him Wednesday at home versus the Atlanta Braves, who hit a National League worst .237 on the road. This would give rookie Zach Eflin an extra-days rest. But then again, they would be throwing a young arm into a volatile situation.

Ben Lively has pitched fairly well between Reading and Lehigh Valley this season, but he has gone through two consecutively rocky starts, giving up a combined 11 earned runs in as many innings. Brining him up would create the same situation you are attempting to avoid with Thompson.

Additionally, neither Thompson nor Lively are on the Phillies 40-man roster, meaning they would have to designate a player for assignment. The only realistic candidates for that sort of move would be the suspended Daniel Stumpf, Tyler Featherston in AAA, utility-man Jimmy Paredes (who has been multiple teams already this season), or one of the major league bullpen arms.

Phillies
Mar 7, 2016; Bradenton, FL, USA; Philadelphia Phillies starting pitcher Brett Oberholtzer (34) throws during the fifth inning of a spring training baseball game against the Pittsburgh Pirates at McKechnie Field. Mandatory Credit: Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports /

With that being said, the only other option would be to bring back David Buchannon, who is already on the 40-man roster. He 4-5 with a 4.77 ERA in Lehigh Valley this year.

Ideally, Brett Oberholtzer will take Aaron Nola’s place on Thursday in Colorado, with Adam Morgan and Severino Gonzalez prepped to pitch multiple innings.

This is not the ideal situation for the Phillies, but in the long-term it will be. It limits the number of roster moves and possibility of losing a player on the waiver-wire.

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