The Phillies went to Miami this weekend with little to play for beyond a two-day opportunity to loosely audition young pitchers.
Zack Wheeler, initially scheduled to start this afternoon in Game 162, will not. The nod goes to left-hander Bailey Falter, who has not pitched since September 23.
Friday night belonged to Ranger Suarez, one of the Phillies' three brightest spots this season. He was not auditioning; he has a job in the Phillies' rotation for the foreseeable future.
On Saturday night, the Phils started Hans Crouse for the second time. The 23-year-old rookie was part of the team's return in the deadline deal that sent Spencer Howard to the Texas Rangers for starter Kyle Gibson and closer Ian Kennedy.
Crouse pitched four innings in Miami and allowed three runs on two hits and three walks. All three runs scored on Jazz Chisholm Jr.'s third-inning home run, which came on a changeup, Crouse's third-best pitch.
Asked after the game if Crouse should have used another offering in that spot, Phillies manager Joe Girardi said it is a third pitch he'll need to use to succeed as a starting pitcher.
These final 48 hours for the Phillies were about getting looks at some of their young pitching depth, so if ever there was a time to experiment, it's now.
"That's kind of what we're doing here a little bit," Girardi said. "We're evaluating, obviously, and you want to see how they respond to their surroundings and some adversity and their ability to throw strikes and quality pitches."
Crouse made two starts for the Phillies over the season's final two weekends. In total, he pitched seven innings and walked seven, allowing four runs and two homers.
In seven starts in the Phils' minor-league system after the trade deadline (six at Double A, one at Triple A), Crouse had a 3.18 ERA with 44 strikeouts and 15 walks in 34 innings. MLB.com lists him as the Phillies' No. 4 prospect, behind RHP Mick Abel, INF Bryson Stott and RHP Andrew Painter.
"For Philly to think this highly of me, to give me an opportunity at the end of the season to make these two starts, it's a great learning experience," Crouse said. "Just being around all these guys, getting to talk to (Andrew) Knapp and (J.T.) Realmuto, getting to talk to (Aaron) Nola, Wheeler, seeing how they go about their bullpens. I've just tried to be a sponge up here and pick and choose the right time to ask certain guys questions."
Kyle Dohy, a 25-year-old left-handed reliever, made his major-league debut in the eighth inning Saturday. He walked the leadoff batter, Miguel Rojas, and allowed a one-out single but stranded the runners with a groundout and strikeout. Dohy's minor-league tenure with the Phillies has been defined mostly by walks and strikeouts. In 197⅔ career innings, he's walked 149 and struck out 303. He was the Phillies' 16th-round pick in 2017.
Left-hander Cristopher Sanchez, acquired from the Tampa Bay Rays in November 2019 for infielder Curtis Mead, pitched three scoreless innings in relief of Crouse to get the ball to Dohy. Sanchez appeared in seven games for the Phils this season, posting a 4.97 ERA and 1.82 WHIP with 13 strikeouts and seven walks in 12⅔ innings.
The talk about Sanchez when the Phillies traded for him was that he had a fastball that could reach the high-90s. In this brief stint in the majors, he's been mostly sinker-slider, with the sinker ranging from 93 to 96 mph.
Sanchez pitched three scoreless innings, walking one. His success will be determined by how much he can improve his control (strike-throwing) and his command (where those strikes are located).
"He's an interesting guy because he has the ability to get ground balls and get some swings and misses," Girardi said.
Mead, meanwhile, had a breakout season in Tampa’s minor-league system. Splitting time between third base and first base, the 20-year-old has hit .321/.378/.533 with 38 doubles and 15 homers. Most of his season was spent at Single A, but he also went 6 for 14 with two doubles and a homer in four games at Triple A.
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