The Phillies may not need to choose between Nick Pivetta or Vince Velasquez as their fifth starter with Zach Eflin's status for the start of the season uncertain.
Eflin was slowed earlier in camp by back spasms. He threw a bullpen session Wednesday and his next step is pitching two innings in a simulated game Saturday, when the Phils are scheduled to play in D.C.
Scheduled is the important word there, with the Nationals exploring alternative playing sites because of Washington D.C.'s coronavirus protocols, according to The Washington Post. If the Phillies are unable to play in D.C. Saturday, they would hold another intrasquad game at Citizens Bank Park.
Pivetta started the intrasquad game Thursday and impressed with four hitless, scoreless innings. He struck out four.
You'd be in position to buy the Mets if you had a nickel for every time you've heard this, but both Pivetta and Velasquez have impressed in Phillies camp. They were battling for the final spot in the rotation (a third competitor, Ranger Suarez, was placed on the COVID injured list to start summer camp) but both could now open the season starting games for the Phils.
"Part of it depends on Zach Eflin, where he ends up," Girardi said Thursday. "After (the sim game Saturday), we have to start thinking about what we're going to do and where he's at."
Eflin moved ahead of Pivetta and Velasquez last season by exhibiting more consistency. In 163⅓ innings, he went 10-13 with a 4.13 ERA and a career-best groundball rate. He pitched 70 more innings than Pivetta and 46 more than Velasquez.
Pivetta and Velasquez have been healthier, though. Eflin has had at least one stint on the injured list in each of his four big-league seasons.
A decision about those final two rotation spots will likely be made early next week. The birth of Zack Wheeler's first child is also expected next week, so the Phillies' rotation will be in flux early. Their season opener is next Friday, July 24 at home against the Marlins.