Nola issues more walks than usual vs. Toronto

Young righty, Mackanin not alarmed by rare four free passes

Nola issues more walks than usual vs. Toronto

CLEARWATER, Fla. -- Phillies right-hander Aaron Nola doesn't walk many batters. In his brief Major League career, the 2014 No. 1 Draft choice has averaged just 2.3 bases on balls per nine innings.

Or, to put it another way, in 33 career starts he's walked as many as four batters exactly once.

So it was notable that the 23-year-old, who missed the final two months of last season with a strained elbow, issued four free passes in his 4 2/3 innings during the Phillies' 7-5 loss to the Blue Jays on Friday at Spectrum Field.

Notable but, according to both the pitcher and manager Pete Mackanin, not alarming.

"It happens every now and then," Nola said with a shrug. "You get those games. Usually I'm pretty good at limiting the walks. I had a couple of balls get away arm side to lefties. Besides those walks, I commanded three pitches pretty good."

Nola on his progress in spring

Added Mackanin: "I'm just happy that he hit 92, 93 a few times, which is important to me. The command comes next. That's what Spring Training is all about. Once he gets to where he's commanding his pitches, he's going to be back to where he's supposed to be.

"The ball looked good coming out of his hand. He threw a lot of good changeups, which he's been working on since last year, and it really looked good. It was an effective pitch."

Three of the four batters Nola walked came around to score. He also struck out four.

Two of the four runs charged to him scored after he was relieved by Ben Lively in the fifth. He could have been out of the inning, but Kendrys Morales hit a slow roller to third where Maikel Franco was playing deep and beat the throw.

"I feel good," Nola said. "I feel like I'm almost where I need to be going into the season. A few more outings, and I think I'll be good to go for the season. Keep on staying healthy, that's my main focus right now."

Nola could well turn out to be the linchpin of the rotation. Veterans Jeremy Hellickson and Clay Buchholz have track records. Jerad Eickhoff led the Phillies in starts and ERA in his first full season. Vince Velasquez has been inconsistent but has electric stuff.

Nola has been really good when healthy, which is why he's being watched so closely this spring.

"I felt like I did pretty well," he said. "The walks hurt me, obviously. Walks are never a good thing. Other than that my body felt good, and I felt like I was commanding my pitches for the most part."

Paul Hagen is a reporter for MLB.com and covered the Phillies on Friday. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.