Nola to 'compete and work' to prep for Opening Day

Nola to 'compete and work' to prep for Opening Day

DUNEDIN, Fla. -- Aaron Nola's 29-pitch effort in Saturday's 9-6 loss to the Blue Jays proved to be a tale of two outings, with the young right-hander recovering from a rocky first inning to record an easy 1-2-3 second.

Blue Jays designated hitter Troy Tulowitzki lined a 2-1 fastball into the pine trees beyond the left-field wall to lead things off, and after a walk to Josh Donaldson and a swinging bunt single by Chris Colabello, Michael Saunders launched a towering drive into the Toronto bullpen in right-center to make the score 4-0.

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Junior Lake followed with a groundout to short, and after an infield single by Darwin Barney, Nola got Josh Thole to ground into an inning-ending double play.

"I wasn't really commanding the baseball. I was getting behind on the count. My pitches were pretty much over the plate, and they made me pay for them," said Nola.

Nola settled down nicely in the second inning, sandwiching groundouts to short by Ezequiel Carrera and Tulowitzki around a soft comebacker by Jio Mier to retire the Blue Jays in order.

"It went a little smoother. I made adjustments, and I got a feel for my pitches a little more," said Nola, whose fastball topped out at 93 mph while sitting consistently in the 90-91 range.

Nola reported that there was nothing in his pregame preparation to suggest he would struggle in the early going.

"My arm felt good, and my body felt good all day and then in warmups, and I felt good on the field. It's just about executing pitches. I missed a couple of spots over the plate that were supposed to be away," said Nola, who is projected to be the Phillies' Opening Day starter on April 4 in Cincinnati.

It was Nola's powerful command of his entire pitching repertoire that helped convince the Phillies to make him the seventh overall pick of the 2014 Draft, so is it difficult for him to struggle with location, as he did on Saturday?

"I run into outings like that every now and then, but I'm going to continue to work on those areas and try not to make those mistakes as much -- try not to make them again," said Nola, who went 6-2 with a 3.59 ERA in 13 starts for the Phillies last year after being called up in late July.

And that big league experience has proved invaluable to the 22-year-old Nola as he navigates through his first Grapefruit League competition.

"Getting the callup in July, I know how it is, and I know what I have to do. It involves a lot of work, and I'm going to continue trying to compete and work through everything on my side sessions and during my throwing sessions," said Nola.

Michael Kolligian is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.