Phillies’ Nola hit by flu as changeup progress has to wait

Aaron Nola missed his Monday start because of the flu. (Jonathan Dyer-USA TODAY Sports)
Aaron Nola missed his Monday start because of the flu. (Jonathan Dyer-USA TODAY Sports)

Philadelphia Phillies ace Aaron Nola was scratched from his spring-training start on Monday against the New York Yankees because of the flu. 

There was no immediate concern of it being something more serious in regards to the epidemic involving coronavirus. 

Joe Girardi quickly pivoted to a bullpen game, which was started by Ramon Rosso. 

It’s been an inconsistent spring of sorts for Nola, who has allowed four runs on 13 hits in eight innings of work over three outings for a 4.50 ERA. 

But this has been a spring of exploratory tweaks to his game as he looks to hone his arsenal following a disappointing 2019 season. 

The 26-year-old made it known that he wanted to work on improving his changeup, which was admittedly down last year when he went 12-7 with a 3.87 ERA despite a career-high 229 strikeouts. 

“My changeup wasn’t as consistent as it was in previous years. I am just trying to get back to throwing that for strikes down more,” he said last month (h/t Todd Zolecki, MLB.com). “I didn’t throw my changeup in even counts for strikes as much as I did, like 1-1 counts for changeups were going to 2-1 counts and 1-0 counts were going to 2-0 counts. I think that was a separator.”

The lack of control on his changeup was noticeable, as tracked by Fangraphs, which certainly limited the righty’s success in 2019. 

Last season, just 24.4% of Nola’s 616 changeups thrown were seen inside the strike zone. 

That was a 7.5% dropoff from 2018 and a 10.2% decrease from 2017. 

Even when that changeup was out of the strike zone, Nola wasn’t getting as many swings and misses as previously seen. Batters made contact with the pitch out of the zone at a 64.7% rate, a 3.7% jump from last season. 

Nola admitted that his changeup has felt much better throughout spring training, but the progress will have to wait for at least a few days. 

No timetable for a return has been released as of yet. 

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