Already facing rotation issues, Phillies to start Walker on short rest Sunday


The Phillies, who have no fifth starter and no clear answer as to who will be their fifth starter moving forward, will start Taijuan Walker on short rest in their series finale Sunday against the Cubs.

It originally looked like they would need to call someone up to start Sunday or go with a bullpen game, but the Phillies are pushing that decision back two days to Tuesday at home against the Diamondbacks.

Walker lasted just two-thirds of an inning this past Wednesday in San Francisco and was pulled by manager Rob Thomson after allowing four runs and throwing 40 pitches.

"I checked with the medical people, pitching (coaches), talked to Taijuan and he's good to go for tomorrow," manager Rob Thomson said prior to Saturday's game.

It's only May 20 and the Phillies have already been forced to make decisions like this because of injuries and underperformance in the rotation. Phillies starting pitchers have a 5.06 ERA, which ranks 24th in MLB and well above the league average of 4.48.

Their vision for the rotation was a top four of Zack Wheeler, Aaron Nola, Taijuan Walker and Ranger Suarez with top prospect Andrew Painter in the No. 5 spot and Bailey Falter ready to go as the spot starter/next man up.

But Painter and Suarez both hurt their elbows in early March and were shut down. Suarez did not make his season debut until May 13 in Colorado. Painter is still at least a few months away from helping the Phillies at the big-league level.

Falter, who is 0-7 with a 5.13 ERA, was optioned to Triple A on Tuesday after allowing six unearned runs in relief Monday against the Giants. The Phillies used an opener, Connor Brogdon, in front of him, and also gave Falter four extra days of rest in hopes that it would lead to an uptick in velocity. Falter threw his hardest pitch of the season, a 92.8 mph fastball, to strike out Brandon Crawford with the bases loaded in the first inning that night, but his fastball average for the game was the same it's been all season, 90.5.

Walker, who signed a four-year, $72 million contract over the offseason, has a 6.53 ERA in nine starts as a Phillie. He's gotten through five innings just four times and had four disastrous outings. Velocity hasn't been a problem but control and command have been.

"We're taxing our bullpen," Thomson said after Friday's 10-1 loss to the Cubs.

Here is what the Phillies' rotation could look like over the next week:

Sunday vs. CHC: Taijuan Walker

Monday vs. ARI: Zack Wheeler

Tuesday vs. ARI: TBA

Wednesday vs. ARI: Ranger Suarez

Thursday at ATL: Aaron Nola

Friday at ATL: Taijuan Walker

Saturday at ATL: Zack Wheeler

Sunday at ATL: TBA

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