NEW YORK – The Phillies scheduled their starting rotation for the final weekend of the first half to keep Aaron Nola eligible to pitch in next week's All-Star Game and at least in the conversation to start for the National League.
Nola will make his final start of the first half on Saturday against Miami instead of Sunday. He would have been forbidden from appearing in the All-Star Game if he pitched on Sunday. Manager Gabe Kapler was unsure until Wednesday when he would start Nola. Zach Eflin, who started Monday's doubleheader in New York with Nola, will pitch Sunday.
"There's this balance of doing what's best for Nola long term, and obviously there's no right answer for that, and what's best for the Phillies long term, and there's no right answer for that. But you're thinking about it," Kapler said. "Ultimately, it's what this guy has earned, which is to pitch in the middle of the summer in the All-Star Game. That happens maybe once in a lifetime. Maybe for him it happens 15 times. But it's at least worth noting that it's an honor that you have to respect, and to respect if fully you have to switch things up a little to make sure that happens."
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Nola leads National League starters with 12 wins and has the second-lowest ERA (2.27), and opponents are batting just .197 against him, the third-lowest mark in the NL. But his numbers are on par with those of Mets righthander Jacob deGrom and Nationals righthander Max Scherzer. It is tough to imagine Dodgers manager Dave Roberts naming anyone other than Scherzer as the National League starter in Scherzer's home ballpark. That decision is out of the Phillies' hands, Kapler said. The best Kapler could do was make sure his ace is eligible.
"I can certainly put myself in the shoes of a fan and say, 'I can't wait to turn on the game and watch Aaron Nola, our all-star, pitch in that game.' I think that means something," Kapler said. "I think it's a powerful thing."
Rhys Hoskins was cleared to play Wednesday after passing concussion tests following Tuesday night's game. He crashed into the left-field wall early in the win Tuesday but stayed in the game. It looked scary, but Hoskins said he laughed when he watched the replay. He had learned a few hours earlier that he could ditch his double-flapped helmet because his jaw was no longer fractured. The first thing he did was make sure his jaw was OK.
"We're constantly working on it. It's a work in progress for him," Kapler said of Hoskins' defense in left field. "Last night's play aside, it's something that he works hard on every single day to get better."