After trying him as a starting pitcher seven times and as a bulk reliever Monday night in San Francisco to uninspiring results, the Phillies optioned Bailey Falter to Triple A Tuesday afternoon.
Falter was 0-7 with a 5.13 ERA.
It was not immediately clear what the Phillies will do next time the No. 5 spot in the rotation comes up. They have Zack Wheeler starting Tuesday and Taijuan Walker in the series finale Wednesday against the Giants. Thursday is an off-day, then it should be Ranger Suarez Friday and Aaron Nola Saturday against the Cubs, each pitching with an extra day of rest. The Phillies won't need a fifth starter again until at least Sunday.
Choices are not plentiful. Left-handers Cristopher Sanchez and Michael Plassmeyer are on the 40-man roster and stretched out at Triple A, though both have ERAs over 6.00. Right-hander Andrew Painter is in the early stages of a throwing program and still won't be able to contribute for a few months.
Noah Skirrow, a 24-year-old right-hander at Triple A, is another option. He started Tuesday night for the IronPigs and did not pitch particularly well, allowing five runs without making it out of the fourth inning, but entered 4-0 with a 3.52 ERA. He’s struck out 26, walked 12 and allowed seven home runs in 34 1/3 innings. Skirrow is not on the 40-man roster.
The Phillies recalled right-handed reliever Erich Uelmen to take Falter's place on the active roster. Uelmen had allowed one run in 8⅔ innings. He was acquired from the Cubs for cash on January 4.
Falter was an important piece of the Phillies' pitching staff in 2022, stepping up during second-half injuries to Zack Wheeler and Zach Eflin. Falter had a 3.86 ERA overall last season and went 5-0 with a 2.45 ERA in a seven-start stretch from July 29 through September 18.
Part of the reason for Falter's glaring difference in results is diminished fastball velocity. He is mostly a four-seam fastball/curveball pitcher and threw his heater nearly 65 percent of the time a season ago. The fastball averaged 91.6 mph in 2022 and is down to 90.8 mph this year.
The Phillies gave Falter four extra days between outings leading into the San Francisco appearance and opened with Connor Brogdon. The extra time off may have helped Falter strike out Brandon Crawford on a 92.8 mph fastball to end the first inning with the bases loaded, the fastest pitch the lefty has thrown all season. Despite that, his fastball velocity for the night was actually down slightly, to 90.5.
Falter has beaten himself up after his last few starts, saying after a recent outing in Houston that it seems something always goes wrong for him and reiterating, at least publicly, that he cannot pinpoint why he hasn't been able to recapture his success from 2022. Perhaps the minor-league assignment will allow him to build confidence and velocity.