The Phillies have shuffled their starting pitching rotation for this weekend's two-game set against the New York Yankees at Citizens Bank Park.
The skinny: Aaron Nola, who was not initially scheduled to start in the series, will now do so. Spencer Howard will move back a couple of days and start Monday against the Dodgers in Los Angeles. Vince Velasquez will move up a day and pitch Saturday afternoon.
Manager Joe Girardi said the change was based on having pitchers work closer to their regular five-day rotation after parlaying some off days in the schedule and some changes in the pitching order to get Nola and Zach Eflin extra rest over the last week.
"I really didn't want Vinny to go on seven days and I thought I'd get Nola back on his normal rest and see if it sharpens him up, so I decided to do that," Girardi said.
Save for his impressive shutout of the St. Louis Cardinals on April 18, Nola has often struggled with command of his pitches this season. He's run high pitch counts and failed to get through the middle innings. He made mistakes with his fastball over the plate while pitching with two extra days of rest against Atlanta on Tuesday. He allowed a pair of doubles and a pair of homers in that 9-5 loss and appeared dejected afterward.
"Another tough outing for me," he said. "Tough game."
By moving to Sunday, Nola will be on his fifth day and avoid the Dodgers, a club that has some left-handed thunder and hits right-handed pitching better than left-handed pitching. Howard, of course, is right-handed, but his piggyback mate, Ranger Suarez, is left-handed. Suarez has pitched eight scoreless innings as the first man out of the bullpen in three of Howard's starts.
Howard will go eight days between starts when he faces the Dodgers on Monday night. The Phillies are managing his innings count for the season.
Entering Friday, the Dodgers were scoring 5.26 runs per game, second-best in the majors. The Yankees ranked 26th at 3.89 runs per game. The Phillies are scoring 4.2 runs per game, below the MLB average of 4.39.
The Phillies made a roster move Thursday, putting pitcher Brady Lail through waivers and outrighting him to Triple A. That ostensibly opens a spot on the 40-man roster for Adam Haseley, who must come off the restricted list this weekend. Haseley would be optioned to Triple A, where he is currently playing after returning from taking a month off for personal reasons.