No invite for Nola a curious decision

BY foxsports • February 6, 2015

The Philadelphia Phillies selected LSU pitcher Aaron Nola with the 7th overall pick in last June's amateur draft. Nola is regarded as a "fast track" pick, meaning simply he could be a guy who ascends to the major leagues rather quickly. Some are saying as soon as 2015.

This makes the Phillies' decision to not invite him to major league spring training puzzling. He has no chance to make the major league team out of camp, so I get the argument that you don't want him taking innings away from guys who are competing for positions. At the same time though, that experience in your first major league camp has great value.

I was very similar to Nola. I went 9th overall in 1994 and was fast-tracked to the big leagues, making my MLB debut exactly one year to the day after I signed as an amateur. I was scheduled to attend major league spring training in 1995, which has always been customary for high first-round draft picks, but there was no major league spring training in 1995. The players were on strike and I missed out on that opportunity.

I can tell you that walking into the big-league clubhouse the day I got the call was a little intimidating. Suddenly guys like Barry Larkin, Deion Sanders and Benito Santiago were my teammates. Davey Johnson was my manager, Don Gullet my pitching coach. I had never met any of these guys prior to that day. I only knew of them from baseball cards and video games. More significantly, they didn't know me. The Reds were in first place and in the middle of a pennant race that year, not exactly the ideal to time to bring in a new member of your rotation that no one was familiar with.

There is no harm in bringing in Aaron Nola to major league camp for even just 2-3 weeks. There is only value. Giving a look to manager Ryne Sandberg and a couple of bullpen sessions with pitching coach Bob McClure only aides in his development.

There would be no bigger impact though than the one he would get from his veteran teammates.

Putting him in a work group with pitchers like Cole Hamels, Cliff Lee and Aaron Harang is a tremendous opportunity. They would be doing PFP drills, practicing bunt defenses and throwing bullpens together. The conversations that take place in those moments is a rite of passage for a high draft pick and the impressions that are left on a young man are indelible. I was sorry to read that Nola will miss out on that this year.


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