Nola returns to Phillies' rotation July 18

Young righty given mental break after rocky 5-start stretch

Nola returns to Phillies' rotation July 18

DENVER -- Aaron Nola is ready to rejoin the Phillies' rotation.

He will start July 18 against the Marlins at Citizens Bank Park, which will be his first since the Phillies skipped his turn in the rotation following a rough five-start stretch. The Phillies said they wanted Nola to clear his mind before the second half.

Nola, who threw two innings in a simulated game Saturday at Coors Field, believes the benefits will be more physical than mental.

"I don't really think it's a mental break," he said. "Mentally, I feel fine. I feel like the past month I struggled. The ball was up. My command wasn't where it should be. I wasn't getting ahead of guys, and they make you pay for it. I think that's main part.

"My body is going to be a lot healthier. My arm is going to be a lot healthier. I feel great."

Nola, 23, had been a legitimate candidate to make the National League All-Star team before he went 0-4 with a 13.50 ERA in his last five starts. Assuming he regains his trademark command and returns to form, the Phillies' rotation should be formidable the final two-plus months of the season with Jerad Eickhoff, Vince Velasquez, Zach Eflin and Jeremy Hellickson, if he is not traded before the Aug. 1 Trade Deadline.

But the four youngest pitchers in the rotation have given the Phillies reasons to be optimistic about the future.

Nola likes the Phillies' prospects with this rotation, too.

"I love watching those guys," Nola said. "They're such big-time competitors. Just the way they pitch. Eickhoff is probably one of the hardest competitors I've played with. The guy is just locked in all the time."

Todd Zolecki has covered the Phillies since 2003, and for MLB.com since 2009. 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.