Nola focused on 2016 after being shut down

Howard, Franco nearing returns; Brown done for season

Nola focused on 2016 after being shut down

WASHINGTON -- Phillies rookie Aaron Nola hoped to make one more start in 2015, but the club announced Sunday he will not pitch again this season.

Nola threw 187 innings, including 77 2/3 with the Phillies. He threw about 172 innings last season, which included his time in college at LSU. Phillies interim general manager Scott Proefrock said next season "the governor will be off and he'll be ready to go and pitch throughout the course of the whole season, hopefully."

Nola went 6-2 with a 3.59 ERA in 13 starts, which included five scoreless innings Saturday against the Nationals.

"It's time to get ready for next year," Nola said. "I agree with [the decision]. As a competitor, of course, I don't want to stop. I want to finish the year, but throwing a lot of innings was helpful for me this year. I want to add onto that next year, especially at this level. I'm going to work the hardest to do that."

Nola will return to Baton Rouge, La., for the offseason. He will begin his offseason training program in a few weeks, although he will give his arm a break for the next couple of months. He wants to be ready to go in Spring Training.

"It's going to be a competitive spring," Nola said. "I expect it to be a competitive spring because I know it will be. Nothing is really given to you and I want to earn it."

Nola is correct to say nothing is guaranteed, but he is the safest bet to make the 2016 rotation, assuming he is healthy. He pitched well. He showed promise. He lived up to the hype following his selection with the seventh pick in the 2014 Draft.

"He did everything we could've expected and more," Proefrock said. "He showed why he was drafted where he was drafted and how highly regarded he was. He's made a very favorable impression on all of us. So hopefully he can be a big part of what we want to do here in the future."

"I learned a lot at this level," Nola said. "I experienced a lot that I never experienced. I learned a lot from a lot of veteran guys here."

He said he will look to fine tune his changeup in the offseason to give him a more effective third pitch.

"As a starter you definitely have to have more than two pitches," said Nola, who also throws a fastball and curveball. "Having a third pitch really helps and gets them thinking. Especially at this level because these guys are smart. There's a lot of veteran hitters and they've seen a lot of guys. They've had a lot of at-bats."

The Phillies will use the bullpen to pitch Friday's game against the Marlins.

Howard, Franco closer to return

First baseman Ryan Howard is expected to be available to play as early as Tuesday against the Mets at Citizens Bank Park. He has not played since Sept. 14 because of a bruised left knee.

"He'll get back on the field at some point before the end of the year," Proefrock said.

Third baseman Maikel Franco has been on the DL since Aug. 12 with a broken left wrist. He is scheduled to play five innings Monday in a Florida instructional league game. If that goes well, Proefrock said, "[Franco will] be back in Philly before the end of the season as well."

Dom done

Outfielder Domonic Brown has not played since Sept. 2 because of a concussion. He is going to play in some instructional league games before he can be cleared, but he will not rejoin the Phillies before the end of the season. It could be the end of his Phillies' career. He is eligible for salary arbitration after the season and the Phillies could non-tender him.

Todd Zolecki is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his Phillies blog The Zo Zone, follow him on Twitter and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.