By Steve Kelly
Phillies fans have seen the last of pitcher Aaron Nola for 2016.
The Phillies have placed Nola on the 60-day disabled list with an injured right elbow to make room on the 40-man roster for right-hander Frank Herrmann. The Phils promoted Herrmann from Triple-A Lehigh Valley to replace left-hander Elvis Araujo, who was optioned to the IronPigs.
“I’m pretty confident right now that everything is going to heal correctly, and by spring training, I should be good to go,” Nola told MLB.com.
But Nola’s recovery is not entirely certain. Dr. James Andrews examined Nola on Monday in Alabama. The righty has a low-grade sprain of his UCL and a low-grade strain of his flexor pronator tendon.
“At this time nobody is talking about surgery,” Phillies general manager Matt Klentak said.
Nola also received a platelet-rich plasma (PRP) injection on Monday, and he will not throw for four weeks to allow the PRP injection to work.
“We’ll ramp him back up at that point to see how he responds,” Klentak said.
If everything goes well, Nola is expected to be ready by spring training. If he does not respond, what is the next step?
“We haven’t gone down that road yet,” Klentak said. “Right now, nobody is suggesting that surgery is the way to go on this, and we feel good about the fact that there’s a consensus among all the doctors that have seen him.”
Nola finished 6-9 with a 4.78 ERA in 20 starts this season, and he went 1-5 with a 9.82 ERA in his final eight starts.
“I think it was unrelated,” Nola said. “Before the last game, everything felt good. My arm felt good. I don’t think this had to do with any of the previous starts before then. Just overall my body felt really good leading up to that. It was just something that happened. … I had some real bumps in the road there. But I want to learn from those, I want to learn from the challenges I had. The experiences that didn’t go well, I want to learn from them and kind of build on those.”
The Phillies have used this season to look at their young starters. The results have been mixed. Jerad Eickhoff has been steady, but Nola struggled mightily before landing on the DL. Zach Eflin has patellar tendinopathy in his knees and it is unclear if he will pitch again this season. His results have varied. Vince Velasquez dominated early, but he has a 7.24 ERA in his last five starts and has struggled recently to pitch deep into games.
Velasquez’s workload is being monitored closely. He said he could make “three or four more starts” before the end of the season. Klentak said the Phillies do not have a specific day targeted as his final start.
“More than anything it reinforces the position that we’ve taken for most of the last year about the importance of starting pitching depth,” Klentak said about the rotation’s performance. “For four months, this team’s starting rotation was about as healthy as any starting rotation in baseball, and for the last two, three weeks it’s been something less than that. That’s kind of the nature of our game.”
Expect the Phillies to make a qualifying offer to Jeremy Hellickson after the season. If he accepts, they will have at least one veteran in the rotation. If he rejects the offer, expect them to pursue at least one more veteran starter.
“We need to figure some more things out,” Klentak said. “It’s fairly reasonable to expect that every offseason we’ll be looking to add starting pitching depth. There’s a lot of different ways to skin that cat. But I think realistically this offseason will be no different than any other.”