READING - Aaron Nola expects to have no limitations next month when the righthander reports to spring training as he moves past the elbow injury that cut short his first full season in the majors.
"One hundred percent. My arm is all good," Nola said Tuesday before the team's winter caravan stop.
A healthy Nola would figure to be a lock for a Phillies starting rotation that is shaping up to be Nola, Vince Velasquez, Jerad Eickhoff, and veterans Clay Buchholz and Jeremy Hellickson. Nola's season ended in August, but his injury did not require surgery. Nola completed a throwing program in October at the team's complex in Clearwater, Fla., where he threw off a mound four times.
"All through rehab, I had no pain," Nola 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."
Nola's struggles last season began in June as he registered a 9.82 ERA in his final eight starts. He does not blame that stretch on his elbow and has no plans of analyzing those starts. He is just staying confident, Nola said.
"I had a bad stint. You know, people have that," Nola said.
The next step will come in the next few weeks, when Nola throws off a mound for the first time since he left the team's complex in October. Nola plans to throw at his old college, LSU. And his catcher will be his older brother, Austin, a Marlins minor-leaguer who recently transitioned from infielder to catcher. It will be a vital session and one of the final steps before Nola reports a few weeks early to spring training. He expects to be fully ready when pitchers and catchers report on Feb. 13.
"There's a part of me that's concerned," manager Pete Mackanin said. "When guys don't have surgery and they mend with just rest, that makes me a little nervous. I don't want that to crop up again because then you lose a couple years instead of one year. I defer to the medical people and believe in what they say and how he feels.
"Hopefully Nola has learned something from this and he'll be a little more conscientious, not that he wasn't before, about taking care of his arm. Maybe he had and maybe he hadn't in the past. It just wakes you up a little bit."