Nola feels '100 percent' after injury-shortened 2016

Nola feels '100 percent' after injury-shortened 2016

READING, Pa. -- If Aaron Nola pitches as well as he said he feels, there might not be any competition this spring for the fifth spot in the Phillies' rotation.

Nola joined Phillies manager Pete Mackanin and teammates Maikel Franco and Roman Quinn on Tuesday night at the Crowne Plaza Hotel as part of the Phillies' Winter Caravan. Nola finished last season on the disabled list with a low-grade sprain of his UCL and a low-grade strain of his flexor pronator tendon in his right elbow. But after a PRP injection in August and a successful rehab in Clearwater, Fla., in October, he said he is ready to go.

"100 percent," Nola said. "My arm is all good."

If Nola remains healthy and pitches like he has in the past, he is almost certain to round out the Phillies' rotation. Jeremy Hellickson, Clay Buchholz, Jerad Eickhoff and Vince Velasquez are locks for the first four spots.

"Those guys are the incumbents, for a number of reasons," Mackanin said.

So does Nola even need to go out and win a job this spring?

"He's got to show he's healthy and he's making pitches," Mackanin said. "Now, when the season rolls around, it's like anybody else, results matter. I think that if he's healthy he's going to be successful."

Nola said he knew he turned a corner halfway through his rehab in October. He returned home to Louisiana for the offseason, and recently began throwing again after Christmas.

"All through rehab, I had no pain," he said. "Probably in the middle of rehab I started feeling really good. Toward the end, I started upping the intensity a little bit. I knew after I took two months off I was going to be good. I started back up throwing after Christmas, and I didn't have any hesitation on really getting on balls and stretching it out a little bit.

"I've been throwing for a few weeks now. No pain, no hesitation. Not any of it. I'll be ready before or right when pitchers and catchers go [on Feb. 14]."

He said he expects no limitations when camp opens, either.

Nola, 23, went 5-4 with a 2.65 ERA in his first 12 starts last season before finishing 1-5 with a 9.82 ERA in his final eight. He still does not believe the injury had anything to do with his struggles, because he said he felt no pain in his elbow until his final start of the season on July 28.

Nola's scoreless start

Nola is confident he will not repeat those struggles.

"I haven't looked at any video, and I don't plan on looking at any video," he said. "I'm just going to do what I've been doing this offseason because I've been feeling really good and my body is feeling really good. Keeping that up and staying confident going forward."

If everything breaks right in Spring Training, the Phillies will have a talented rotation in Triple-A Lehigh Valley. That group could include some combination of Jake Thompson, Zach Eflin, Alec Asher, Mark Appel, Ben Lively and Nick Pivetta. Mackanin said he sees a scenario in which Adam Morgan joins the Phillies' bullpen, as they are short on left-handers.

"If Adam Morgan can pitch out of the bullpen, I think that would make us a pretty good team," Mackanin said.

Of course, everything begins with health. And then comes performance.

"Eickhoff, I feel very confident he can give consistent outings, and if Nola does it and Vinny does it, we have a pretty darn good rotation, especially with the inventory we have behind those guys," Mackanin said. "It's not like you're bringing up guys and crossing your fingers. They've had some experience."

Todd Zolecki has covered the Phillies since 2003, and for MLB.com since 2009. Follow him on Twitter and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.