Aaron Nola stood on the pitcher's mound and glanced at the scoreboard at Dunedin’s Florida Auto Exchange Stadium after firing off a pitch in the the first inning of Thursday's contest against Toronto.
On the bottom right under "MPH" he noticed "94" flash up.
"It's nice to see, that's for sure," said Nola.
Having not pitched in a contest since July 28 in Atlanta after suffering an elbow strain, Thursday marked the right-hander's return to the mound. He threw two scoreless innings, struck out one batter, and surrendered only a single to Jose Bautista - a bullet off the left-field wall.
His stuff looked fantastic considering he hadn't pitched competitively in nearly eight months.
“I think that just comes from my body having rest and doing what I needed to do strength wise and conditioning wise in Spring Training,” Nola said. “I’m just trying to maintain that and get stronger before the season starts.”
Regardless of the win-loss record this season, the 23-year-old is a key piece in the Phillies future plans and is expected eventually to sit atop the starting rotation. Though he won't make a regular season start for another five weeks, the radar gun yesterday showed he has the stuff to succeed. The question now, however, comes back to durability.
"I guess I was amped up a little bit just because I hadn't been out there in a while," Nola said. "It felt all of seven months. I didn't really know how long it was until I counted. It felt like forever. So it's definitely good to get back out there again.
"Sometimes we take it for granted. I've never been hurt or on the disabled list before. It kind of brought me back to don't take it for granted because it really sucks to be taken away when you can't even throw. So I just tried to embrace everything during rehab and right now I'm not taking anything for granted.
"It's a new year and I'm just going to focus on maintaining my body and keeping it healthy."