It should have been obvious after Sunday's gem, but left-hander Cole Irvin has earned another start for the Phillies.
Irvin will face the Rockies at home on Friday night, manager Gabe Kapler said Monday.
"Cole Irvin has earned the opportunity to get additional looks," Kapler said a day after the 25-year-old rookie's seven-inning, one-run debut in Kansas City (see story).
"He was selected to start that game for us because we felt like he gave us the best chance to win the game against the Royals. In the upcoming start against the Rockies, we feel like, at this point, Cole Irvin gives us our best chance to win that baseball game. That's why he'll make that start."
Irvin replaced Vince Velasquez, who hit the 10-day IL (retroactive to May 8) with a right forearm strain. It wasn't a difficult decision for the Phillies to turn to Irvin in Kansas City, given he was fully rested and had little left to prove at Triple A. Irvin was 16-4 with a 2.51 ERA in nearly 200 innings for the IronPigs since the start of 2018.
Nick Pivetta is also on a bit of a roll at Triple A, but he would not have been on regular rest Sunday. Had Irvin pitched poorly, the Phillies could have turned to Pivetta this Friday, but instead, they'll roll with the lefty.
"The competition level right now in the starting rotation is especially high because of guys like Jerad Eickhoff and Cole Irvin," Kapler said Monday. "The fact that Nick Pivetta is now in Triple A pining to return and, in all likelihood, at some point he'll make a really strong push. Vince is going to come off the IL and be excited about trying to get that rotation spot back."
Kapler said Velasquez would be "ready to pitch shortly." In what role remains to be seen. If Irvin and Eickhoff hang on to their rotation spots, we could finally see what Velasquez looks like as a reliever.
As for Irvin, Sunday was just the first step. As a contact pitcher, he will need to continue to spot his fastball well in order to avoid damage. It's just reality that pitchers who lack big-time swing-and-miss stuff have a smaller margin for error. That said, there is still a place in the modern game for guys who consistently locate and get outs. That is who Irvin has been at Triple A. Now he'll get a chance to show whether he can do it consistently in the world's highest level of professional baseball.
"He's willing to induce some contact. He can get us a little bit of a longer start," Kapler said. "The part that is going to be challenging for him is to limit really hard contact. Even in the start against the Royals, there were some balls that might be punished at another time.
"He was not perfect, but it was a really good, aggressive, confident start. That is what we think may set Cole apart. He's cut from a similar cloth as Jerad Eickhoff. His preparation, his aggressiveness and his confidence in himself. That's not enough at the major-league level, just those intangibles. However, they are definitely contributing factors to success."
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