THE GAME: Lehigh Valley was hosting Rochester in the third game of a four-game series Wednesday. Nola, who hadn't pitched in a game since April 20th and has missed time with a lower back strain, made the first of what could be a couple of rehab starts. The Phillies had him on a 60-pitch limit for the game.
THE BACKGROUND: Nola missed the last two months of last season with an elbow strain and came into Spring Training looking to show he was healthy. The reports on the elbow were good, but Nola struggled at times in camp and pitched to a 4.50 ERA in his three starts for the Phillies in 2017. Just when he was hoping to get things righted, the lower back strain injury popped up and put him on the DL. Initially, the Phillies hoped that with off days they would be able to adjust their rotation and only really have Nola miss one start, but then he still felt some discomfort during a bullpen session, which delayed his return. Last Friday, Nola underwent an MRI in Philadelphia and was cleared to pitch. He threw a bullpen session over the weekend, felt good on Monday and the Phillies scheduled a rehab start for him with Lehigh Valley.
WHAT HE SHOWED
Swinging Strikes/Called Strikes/Foul Balls: 18/13/6
First pitch strikes: 12 out of 16
Highest Velocity: 93 (twice), Lowest Velocity:75 (four times)
Leadoff men allowed on base: 1 out of 4
Line: 4 IP, 4 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 0 BB, 3 K, ND
THE BOTTOM LINE
Nola basically did what he needed to do in the rehab outing; he threw close to 60 pitches, knocked off some of the rust, and felt good physically after the game. That's all anybody was looking for from Nola and he delivered on all three points. The rust was especially evident in the first couple of innings, although he hit 91 on his first pitch, took it to 92 on the second batter and threw 93 - his highest velocity of the night - to the fourth hitter in the first inning. After that, he was generally around 91/92 with his fastball. Prior to the injury this season, Nola's average fastball was 92.4 miles per hour, so he was right around his peak velocity with most of his fastballs.
"I felt good, my body felt really good. I feel like I'm right where I need to be right now and I'm ready to move forward," said Nola about the outing.
Nola was scheduled to head back to Philadelphia Thursday and was going to meet with Phillies training staff to determine the next step. Having a 60-pitch limit means that Nola will likely need at least one more rehab start before rejoining the Phillies. That start would come Monday, probably with Lehigh Valley, who will be on the road in Rochester at that point.
One question that Nola was unsure of was whether the injury is something that could develop into a chronic issue or was just a one-time thing that won't reoccur. Cole Hamels had severe back issues early in his career and was able to be put on a special training regimen to avoid issues in the future, which has worked well for him.