Updated: 9:30 p.m.
WASHINGTON, D.C. — Consecutive rainouts Monday and Tuesday benefited the Phillies by giving J.T. Realmuto and Jay Bruce two additional days to recover from their injuries. Had the Phils played Tuesday night, both players would have been available to pinch-hit but would have likely needed pinch-runners. Realmuto will start one game of the Phillies’ day-night doubleheader Wednesday.
Where it negatively affected the Phillies is in the starting rotation. The Phils don’t have a true No. 5 starter right now. Gabe Kapler said Monday that there is a belief within the organization that Vince Velasquez can fill that role, but it’s not a certainty that he’s returned to the rotation. If Velasquez is needed out of the bullpen Thursday or Friday, for example, he may not get the start Saturday. It’s TBD.
And now, because the Phillies play twice on Wednesday, they’ll also need a starter for Sunday’s game. In effect, a team with no fifth starter needs a fifth and sixth starter this weekend.
On Wednesday, it will be Zach Eflin in Game 1 and Jake Arrieta in Game 2.
Nick Pivetta pitches Thursday.
Aaron Nola pitches Friday.
Then possibly Velasquez Saturday.
On Sunday, the Phils will have to figure out something else because it would be short rest for both Arrieta and Eflin.
Who are the options? Kapler said Tuesday that hot pitching prospect Adonis Medina, despite being on the 40-man roster, is not under consideration for a start this weekend.
The organization likely does not feel he’s ready yet and doesn’t want to rush a young pitcher with promise just because it needs a spot starter this weekend. Plus, Medina is a trade chip, and you don’t want to do anything to ding his value by bringing him up before the time feels right.
So there’s Velasquez, there’s Cole Irvin, there’s Enyel De Los Santos. Those are the three most realistic options. Irvin is still on the active roster and was ticketed for the ‘pen before Mother Nature intervened.
De Los Santos made a six-inning start for Triple A Lehigh Valley on Sunday, so he’d be on turn this weekend. The Phillies don’t seem to love him as a starting pitcher, though. They haven’t turned to him when the need has arisen this season and when he has been promoted it has been as a reliever. More of a two-pitch pitcher, De Los Santos could ultimately find more success as a reliever.
Drew Anderson, who started Tuesday for the IronPigs, is another swingman on the 40. There’s also Ranger Suarez.
If the Phillies want to promote someone who’s not on the 40-man roster, 23-year-old Dominican right-hander Ramon Rosso is another option. He has pitched well in 11 starts this season, including a Triple A debut June 13 in which he struck out nine and did not allow an earned run over six innings.
The other options are using an opener or making a trade. It seems unlikely the Phillies will be able to complete a deal for an attractive starting pitcher by the weekend, but one name to keep in the back of your mind is Mike Leake. He’s a No. 4 starter who has alternated quick and efficient quality starts and clunkers throughout his career. He’s on a Mariners team committed to tearing things down and eager to trade high-priced veterans for seemingly whatever they can get, whether it’s salary relief or an interesting young player. Leake is owed $15 million next season and has a $5 million buyout in 2021, way too much for a pitcher his caliber. The Phillies are not going to want to commit $20 million to him just because he’s the most obtainable starting pitcher on the market this minute. But if the Mariners pick up a bulk of his remaining money a la Bruce, he could and should be considered as a rotation stabilizer, not as the missing piece.
Fortunately for the Phillies, they face the lowly Marlins this weekend. If there is a team to lack starting pitching against, it is them.
But again, it highlights the lack of quality options the Phillies have after their first four starting pitchers, who collectively have been just OK. The choice to not sign a veteran starter this offseason has predictably backfired. The team enters Wednesday 39-32, which is still an 89-win pace, but the more important point is that the Braves are surging and the Nationals have won 14 of 21 with a roster every bit as talented as the Phils’.
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