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March 27, 2015

Phillies first-round pick Aaron Nola debuts vs. A-Rod, Yankees

The 21-year-old righty strikes out four, including Rodriguez, in three scoreless innings

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032715_Aaron-Nola_AP Kathy Willens/AP

Aaron Nola has a firm grasp on a spot in the Phillies rotation. But who else will be in the rotation? Who will be the closer? (Kathy Willens/AP)

Aaron Nola, who was selected by the Phillies in the first round (seventh overall) of the 2014 draft made his debut on Friday, and looked good doing it. He worked out of two separate jams while allowing five hits and no runs in three innings of work. He also struck out four batters without surrendering a walk.

Originally slated to start, the LSU prospect had to wait an extra inning to take the hill, as a last-minute change in plans gave closer Jonathan Papelbon the start. The change was made due to an impending storm in Clearwater; the Phillies wanted to make sure Papelbon got a chance to throw before a potential delay or postponement. 

Nola entered the game in the second inning of a scoreless contest with the heart of the Yankees lineup coming to the plate. Here's a batter-by-batter look at Nola's three scoreless innings.


Brian McCann -- Nola got to the Yankees catcher to ground out to first baseman Ryan Howard, who flipped to Nola for the out at first. One away.

Alex Rodriguez -- After running up a two-strike count on Rodriguez, Nola allowed a single back up the middle on what looked like a change up. One out. Runner on first.

Stephen Drew -- Nola allowed back-to-back hits for the only time all day, as Drew doubled off the wall in right field. Had someone with more speed been on first, Nola could have surrendered a run here, but because it was A-Rod, he was held at third. Second and third, one out.

Chris Young -- Suddenly, the 21-year-old found himself in a jam. Luckily, he would be bailed out by right fielder Jeff Francoeur after Young hit a fly ball to right field, one that looked like it would score Rodriguez on a sacrifice fly.

Inning over.


Brendan Ryan -- Nola allowed his second double of the day to Ryan, meaning he would have to work around a runner in scoring position for the second inning in a row. Again, this one went to right field. He was really keeping Francouer busy.

Brett Gardner -- He would get the first out of the inning, but Gardner's ground ball to the right side (Howard) would allow Ryan to advance to third. Nola found himself in a similar position to the first inning, with a runner 90 feet from home with less than two outs. Again, he would work out of it, this time without any help from his right fielder.

Chase Headley -- Nola got his first strikeout of the day, striking Headley out looking with what a truck commercial I've been seeing a lot of lately calls a "Rembrandt." Two outs. Runner on third.

Carlos Beltran -- With Ryan still stranded on third, Nola would get his second consecutive strikeout, this one swinging, to retire Beltran and end the inning.


Mark Teixeira -- Nola got Teixeira to fly out to left for the first out of the inning. At this point, Nola had faced the entire Yankees lineup and struck out two while allowing just three hits. It also meant that from here on out, Nola would be mostly facing batters for the second time, meaning outs could be harder to come by.

Brian McCann -- This time around, McCann got the better of the young righty, singling back up the middle for a one-out hit. For the third time in as many innings, Nola had allowed one of the first two batters to reach base. One out. Man on first.

Alex Rodriguez -- After allowing Rodriguez to single in the second inning, Nola got A-Rod swinging on a nasty changeup for his third strikeout of the day. Two outs. Man on first.

Stephen Drew -- Drew got his second hit of the day off Nola, this one a single to centerfielder Odubel Herrera. Suddenly, Nola found himself in a little trouble again with two outs and runners on first and second.

Chris Young -- For the third inning in a row, Nola got out of the jam. This time, like he did in the third, Nola struck out the final batter, getting Young on a nasty changeup. Inning over. That would be all for Nola on Friday.

Here are of the highlights from his three scoreless innings:

Overall, it was a very impressive day for Nola. It may only be spring training, but he was facing a lineup of Major League hitters. And he more than held his own.

After the game, Rodriguez said he thinks Nola has a "bright future" in the big leagues:

Expected to start the season in double-A Reading, Nola got some support on Thursday from the current ace of the Phillies staff, Cole Hamels. This from Matt Breen of the Philadelphia Inquirer:

"He is the future," Hamels said Thursday. "I just hope he doesn't try to go out there and do too much. Because you can get yourself in a little bit of trouble when you're trying to impress people in such an early time and stage." [via]

Coincidentally, both pitchers accomplished a similar feat in their spring debuts:

Last year, Nola made five starts in Reading, finishing with a 2.63 ERA, 15 strikeouts and five walks. He could be a candidate for a September call-up if he stays healthy and continues to throw like he did against the Yankees on Friday.