While the Philadelphia Phillies organizationally took a step forward in 2016, Aaron Nola's disappointing 2016 season seemed to pour cold water on some of the excitement that existed around the team's rebuild.
A low-grade sprain of his UCL and a low grade elbow flexor strain ended the 23-year-old's season in early August. Given the 23-year-old's importance to the future of the organization, his off-season recovery has been followed closely. According to his agent, via Matt Gelb of the Philadelphia Inquirer, Nola is progressing well thus far:
But Phillies officials wanted Nola to restart a throwing program at the team's complex in Florida. He did that in October. The initial returns encouraged both team and player.
"After completing a full throwing program, and getting his side work in, he feels 100 percent healthy and ready for spring training," Nola's agent, Joe Longo, said this week in an email. "So, he is starting his normally planned offseason program."
Nola went 6-9 with a 4.78 ERA in 111 innings in 2016. Through the first two months of the season, Nola looked like a pitcher that had front of the rotation potential, posting a 2.31 ERA in May after opening the season with a 3.55 ERA in April. In hindsight, Nola's health seemed to decline after that, as he posted a 10.42 ERA in June, seemingly lacking his normally elite command, and followed that up with a 6.30 ERA in July.
Assuming Nola is healthy to start the 2016 season, the Phillies will have to be careful in managing his innings. Nola only threw 111 innings in 2016, meaning that pushing him towards 200 innings, if he's healthy enough the entire year to do that, would present a great risk to the health of his arm. In 2017, a season where the Phillies hope to progress but probably won't be serious contenders, making sure Nola bounces back but is healthy heading into 2018 should be a priority.