Phillies Injury Update

Turnbull placed on IL, Mercado to fill fifth spot in rotation

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There are a myriad of reasons the Phillies reached the mathematical halfway point of the season Thursday night with the best record in baseball, but none is more important than the health of their rotation.

They’ve used just six different starters since Opening Day, and that’s unusual.

Oops. Update: By next week, that will be seven.

Righthander Spencer Turnbull, who lasted just three innings at Detroit on Wednesday, has been placed on the 15-day injured list with a right lat strain. He’s expected to be out six to eight weeks. He was starting in place of righthander Taijuan Walker (right index finger).

Manager Rob Thomson said before Thursday night’s game against the Marlins at Citizens Bank Park that 25-year-old Michael Mercado, who pitched a scoreless inning of relief against the Tigers after being recalled from Triple-A Lehigh Valley, will fill the fifth spot in the rotation. He’ll most likely make his first big league start Tuesday night against the Cubs at Wrigley Field.

In the meantime, reliever Yunior Marte has been recalled from Lehigh Valley to replace Turnbull on the roster.

This development is further proof of the old adage that a team can never have too much pitching. For most of the season there was a public debate about whether Walker or Turnbull should be the fifth starter, especially after Turnbull opened the season by going 2-0, 1.78 while Walker recovered from shoulder soreness.

Losing both within a week means handing the ball to an inexperienced righthander and hoping for the best.

At the same time, the Phillies knock on wood when realizing that their top four starters – Zack Wheeler, Aaron Nola, Ranger Suarez, Sanchez – haven’t missed a turn all season.

Mercado had a 1.71 earned run average for the Iron Pigs in 14 appearances, 10 of them starts. He had 44 strikeouts in 47.1 innings while allowing just 31 hits. There’s another reason to suspect he may be just fine. He’s one of three pitchers now on the Phillies active roster who were acquired from the Tampa Bay Rays and the other two, Cristopher Sanchez and Jose Alvarado, have excelled this season.

“(Mercado) has a great arm,” Thomson said. “Power stuff. Spins the ball really well and he throws strikes. The one inning he threw (in his Major League debut) in Detroit was really poised. I just liked the way the ball came out of his hand and the way he attacked hitters and threw strikes.”

The manager added that he doesn’t expect his pitch limit to be restricted.

Thomson added that there is no timeline for Walker’s return. He’s consistently said all along that he needs to be healthy enough to throw his splitter effectively.

Asked what depth remained behind Mercado, the manager mentioned righthander Tyler Phillips (7-3, 5.02) and David Buchanan (4-3, 5.19).

“It’s a long year and you see it all through the league. There are a lot of pitchers going down,” he said. “A lot of position players, too. It’s tough. A hundred sixty-two. So you’ve got to have depth and our front office has done a great job getting us that. And we just have to keep moving forward.”

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