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Phillies About To Make a Mistake Managing Their Rotation

Amidst a good stretch for their starting rotation, the Philadelphia Phillies are about to make a mistake in managing it. Taijuan Walker is set to be activated off of the injured list heading into the series against the San Diego Padres from April 26 to April 28. The plan is for Walker to immediately rejoin the starting rotation. As a result of this decision, the Phillies are set to move Spencer Turnbull to the long relief role. This comes as Turnbull has a 2-0 record with a 1.23 ERA as well as 22 strikeouts in four starts. In addition, he has a 350 ERA+ and a 0.773 WHIP this season. Among qualified pitchers, Turnbull ranks fifth in ERA, third in WHIP, and second in batting average against in all of MLB.

Meanwhile, in three minor league rehab assignment starts, Walker has a 1-0 record with a 4.20 ERA and six strikeouts. In the two rehab starts he has made for Triple-A Lehigh Valley, he has a 1-0 record with a 4.09 ERA and two strikeouts. The most recent of those appearances for Lehigh Valley came on Sunday. That start saw Walker allow four earned runs on seven hits while issuing three walks. He threw three 90 mph or better pitches during that start, and threw 102 pitches in total. The velocity being down is somewhat concerning. However, it is not surprising given recent comments made by Walker. During a bullpen session on Friday, Walker did not throw a pitch faster than 93 mph.

Phillies About To Make A Mistake Managing Their Rotation

While it is worth noting that 2019 was the last season where Turnbull pitched more than 57 innings, he has earned the fifth spot in the starting rotation. Phillies manager Rob Thomson indicated that Turnbull will have an innings limit and that the team will be cautious with the total amount of innings he pitches this season. While that seems reasonable for the time being, Turnbull should stay in the rotation. If things change, then it would be okay to reconsider this decision. However, as long as Turnbull continues to perform at this level, moving him to the long relief role would be the wrong choice. The alternative option of a six-man rotation does not seem like a possibility at this moment.

It is also important to remember that Walker, who is now in year two of an $18 million a year contract that is four years in length, did not pitch in the postseason last year. The Phillies considered having him start Game 4 of the NLCS against the Arizona Diamondbacks, but opted to have Cristopher Sánchez start instead. According to Todd Zolecki, concerns about Walker and his velocity played a role in the choice to not have him appear during the postseason. As seen by Sunday’s rehab appearance, velocity continues to be a concern for Walker. This comes as both Walker and Thomson believe that the velocity can return to previous levels. 

Other Implications

The corresponding move for when Walker is activated from the injured list is obvious. In all likelihood, Ricardo Pinto will be designated for assignment, as he has no remaining minor league options. In five appearances this season, he has a 11.17 ERA as well as a 39 ERA+ and seven strikeouts. Pinto was called up from Triple-A Lehigh Valley on April 2 after Connor Brogdon was designated for assignment. Brogdon is now with the Los Angeles Dodgers and is currently on the injured list. In his first appearance of the season on April 2, Pinto recorded a save. In four of his five appearances, he has allowed multiple earned runs. Over his two most recent outings on April 14 and April 20, Pinto allowed a combined eight earned runs on a combined nine hits.


Photo Credit: © Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports


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