Phillies Rotation

Don't count Turnbull out of rotation just yet — Phillies weighing multiple options

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ANAHEIM — Don't close the book on Spencer Turnbull in the Phillies' rotation just yet.

Despite having Zack Wheeler, Aaron Nola, Ranger Suarez, Cristopher Sanchez and Taijuan Walker all healthy right now, Turnbull has pitched well enough in his six starts to force the Phillies to consider all options.

And that's exactly what they're doing.

The Phillies started Wheeler on Wednesday, have Thursday off, and will start Nola, Suarez, Walker and Sanchez at home in a four-game wraparound series against the Giants Friday through Monday.

As for Tuesday?

"TBA," manager Rob Thomson said with a smile Wednesday morning from the visiting manager's office at Angel Stadium.

"Since it's TBA, we could go to a six-man. But I'm sure in the next couple of days, probably Friday, (we'll make an announcement)."

Six-man rotation?

Using a six-man rotation is one option, though it's one Thomson said multiple times during this road trip would not be ideal because it would give starters too much rest with off days May 2 and May 9, consecutive Thursdays.

Alternating Turnbull and another starter

Other options include piggybacking Sanchez (or Walker) with Turnbull, or alternating Sanchez and Turnbull.

"You could, depending on the lineups," Thomson said of the idea of alternating Sanchez and Turnbull.

It would be a unique situation, one Thomson has not been a part of during his three-plus decades on big-league coaching staffs. It's hard to predict how it would affect the pitchers involved.

"Don't know," Thomson said. "Done it a lot in the minor leagues, but the games don't mean what they mean here, so that feel and what happens to those guys mentally and emotionally, that's important."

Sanchez has not been sharp his last two times out and stayed away from his trademark changeup Monday night in Anaheim because he didn't have a good feel for it. The next day, Thomson said that it doesn't matter if Sanchez isn't feeling the pitch, he needs to keep throwing it because it's his best weapon.

Thomson's also said during the Phillies' 10-game road trip that they're conscious of Sanchez' workload. He threw 150 innings last season but 50 of those came at Triple A, which aren't as high-stress. The Phils aren't putting a raw innings total on Sanchez or any of their pitchers, but they measure things like velocity, spin rate, arm angle and movement on a daily basis to keep a feel for how the pitchers are feeling and trending.

Piggybacking Turnbull and another starter

Here's what Thomson said Wednesday morning of the piggyback option, where Turnbull would pitch three or four innings in relief of a starter who went four or so innings.

"It's TBA, but I think that sort of makes some sense. I think you set it up, and whoever it is, you say, OK, you've got four today, or five today. If you're at five and 50 pitches, you're coming out because that other guy needs to pitch. You could do it that way. The next time around, maybe you start (the other) guy and he gets five.

"If they continue to pitch well, I think it will work out extremely well if that's the way we go, because it gives the bullpen a day."

In a piggyback situation, the starter and bulk reliever would ideally be taking down eight-plus innings, giving the bullpen a full day of rest, which is part of the appeal. The bullpen has been rested during most of the starts made thus far by Wheeler, Nola and Suarez, but "you can't really count on that over the course of the season because they're going to have some short outings for whatever reason," Thomson said.

Turnbull has forced the Phillies' hand with his performance. In six starts, he is 2-0 with a 1.67 ERA and 0.84 WHIP. He's struck out 36 and walked 10 in 32⅓ innings with an opponents' slash-line of .148/.228/.261.

"Definitely really pleased with it and excited," he said of his first regular-season month as a Phillie. "The team's rolling and it's a lot of fun. I think the biggest confidence booster is just that I've been able to go deep into games. That was the only question mark, just as a starter, I think that's the biggest thing. But stuff-wise and getting results, the confidence has been there. It's just obviously nice to see my hard work pay off. But it's so early in the season. Got to keep it rolling."

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