Phillies in good shape if Nola's dominant spring training debut is a season preview

The Phillies right-hander had an excellent start to spring training, dominating the Yankees on Sunday.

Philadelphia Phillies starting pitcher Aaron Nola had a dominant start in his spring training debut
Philadelphia Phillies starting pitcher Aaron Nola had a dominant start in his spring training debut / Nathan Ray Seebeck-USA TODAY Sports
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The Philadelphia Phillies' quest for a championship will not technically begin until their regular season opener on March 28. However, the club is off to a good start in Clearwater during spring training. Starting pitcher Aaron Nola, in his first start since inking a massive seven-year, $172 million extension in November, started his spring on a high note during the team's 4-0 victory against the New York Yankees at BayCare Ballpark on Sunday.

Nola starts spring training with a dominant performance over the Yankees

In his first Grapefruit League outing, Nola pitched two innings. He had three strikeouts and surrendered no walks and no runs, picking up from his excellent appearances in last year's playoffs.

Nola didn't waste much time in repeating the strong performances he demonstrated during three of his four starts last postseason. In 2023, he went 3-0 with 19 strikeouts, two walks, and two earned runs in his three postseason wins. His ERA was 0.00, 1.42, and 0.96, and the right-hander posted a 0.57, 0.87, and 0.75 WHIP, respectively, in the three starts.

Per MLB.com's Todd Zolecki, Phillies pitching coach Caleb Cotham commented on Nola's improved performance after Cotham suggested during last season the starter stop looking at the pitch clock on his right out of the stretch and focus more on the clock located to his left.

"Last year, he felt like he couldn’t see where he wanted to go," Cotham said, per Zolecki. "His eyes were late. His stride was a little across his body. His upper body was a little closed off."

Following Cotham's helpful tip, the pitching coach explained the difference in Nola's performance.

"It helped his delivery, but it also helped him manage the game better," Cotham said, via Zolecki. "Because right around that time, he also added a slide step. It lowered the volume of the game so he could think more clearly.”

Nola joined the broadcast from the dugout to discuss his start

The 30-year-old Nola joined the broadcast from the dugout following his exit and commented on his first spring performance, per NBC Sports Philadelphia's Corey Seidman.

"Obviously, the fastball command is number one coming into spring training," Nola said. "Games are getting started and everything stems off of that. The changeup, I want to work on that a little bit more, get it more consistent. The cutter; I throw a lot of curveballs and I feel like everybody knows it. Just want to make sure every pitch is crisp right off the bat. I've had quite a few spring trainings now and I have a good idea of what I want to accomplish each outing going into the season."

He also discussed his first outing after the game:

Nola's strong 2023 postseason influenced the club's decision to sign him to the extension during the offseason. He had an up-and-down regular season that he will aim to improve upon this year.

If ace Zack Wheeler maintains his excellence, the club could have a formidable 1-2 combination at the top of their rotation. The duo showed how effective the team can be during their starts in the 2023 playoffs when both pitchers are in the zone.

It will be a tremendous boost for the Phillies if the Baton Rouge, Louisiana native can build upon his performances last postseason and his inaugural start during spring training this year in the 2024 regular season.

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