By Sam Bush

You can call it a tune-up or you can call it a message sent.

The Phils Aaron Nola got 17 outs on just 62 pitches in last night’s 7-2 exhibition victory against Washington at Nationals Park.

He allowed one hit and one walk, striking out four.

Nola pitched so effectively and efficiently that two of his five “innings” were extended by a fourth out so he could get more practice in preparation for Opening Day on Friday against the Marlins at Citizens Bank Park, which appears to be his day.

“I feel like I’m ready,” Nola said. “I think the five up-and-downs that I did definitely helped. I think that’s the biggest thing for starters, especially me. Just to start and stop every inning, get off the mound. It’s a good conditioning for me to be ready.

“I think I’ll know [about the opener] in the next few days. Today, I just wanted to go five innings and get my pitch count up and get ready for whenever I’m on the mound again.”

Nola missed the first few days of camp because he came in contact with somebody who tested positive for COVID-19, putting him slightly behind schedule. Manager Joe Girardi has stopped short of saying that Nola will be his Opening Day starter, but there is little reason to think it will be anybody else at this point.

“We had planned four [innings] and 70 [pitches], and his pitch count was so low that we had to get some extra outs in the innings, and we let him get five and we really felt comfortable with what he did,” Girardi said. “I thought his changeup was outstanding. He was ahead in the count all night. It was just really a good performance.”

Meanwhile, right-hander Zach Eflin threw two innings in a simulated game earlier at Citizens Bank Park. He missed several days recently because of lower back spasms, putting him behind schedule. Girardi said it went well, and Eflin will pitch again Thursday.

Based on Eflin’s schedule, he will not pitch until the fifth game of the season on July 28 against the Yankees at the earliest — if the Phillies believe he is ready.

“Hopefully we can build him up more so that he’s definitely in the mix,” Girardi said.


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