Phillies Injury Update

Walker placed on IL, Turnbull returns to Phillies' rotation

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Taijuan Walker is coming out of the Phillies' rotation. At least temporarily.

Walker was placed on the 15-day injured list Sunday with right index finger inflammation. The move is retroactive to June 22.

Spencer Turnbull will rejoin the Phillies' rotation on Wednesday in Detroit of all places, against the organization that drafted him in 2014, clashed with him several times in 2023 and non-tendered him in November.

Right-hander Michael Mercado was called up from Triple A to take Walker's place on the active roster. He'll pitch out of the bullpen.

Walker is dealing with a blister on his right hand. He has not pitched well in 10 starts, posting a 5.60 ERA with mediocre command, reduced velocity and the absence of his primary out-pitch, the splitter.

Walker's fastball averaged just 90.3 in Friday's loss to the Diamondbacks, his lowest velocity of the season by nearly a full mile per hour. Overall this season, his four-seam fastball has averaged 91.6 and his sinker 91.1, compared to 93.1 and 92.6 last year.

To make matters worse, the splitter that held opponents to a .210 batting average last season with a whiff rate of 24% has generated a .417 opponents' batting average this season with a whiff rate of just 16.5%.

"Don't know, don't know," manager Rob Thomson said when asked how much time Walker could miss. "It all revolves around being able to throw his split. That's what's really affected him. (The blister) doesn't affect him throwing just the fastball. It's when he puts the ball between his fingers.

"It's been going on for a bit. It comes and goes. We really want to knock it out."

The Phillies have a ready-made rotation replacement in Turnbull, who assumed the No. 5 spot in the rotation in April until Walker returned from shoulder soreness. Turnbull excelled in that early-season role, going 2-0 with a 1.67 ERA in six starts. He's pitched sporadically in long relief or lopsided games ever since, trying to find some semblance of a rhythm in an unfamiliar position.

That transition hasn't been easy for Turnbull, but now he'll be in a more natural role. Thomson expects to limit him to around 70 pitches on Wednesday. Turnbull threw 49 in his most recent relief outing Friday.

It remains to be seen what happens with Walker when he's ready to return. The Phillies still owe him the remainder of his $18 million salary this season, then $36M combined in 2025-26. They did not feel comfortable using him in the playoffs last year and he's fallen to at least fifth on the Phillies' depth chart of starting pitchers.

There isn't much flexibility with Walker's role, either. He's made one relief appearance in the last 10 years, and he takes longer to warm up than some starters, which was a reason why he was only on the postseason roster in case of an extremely long extra-inning game last October.

Mercado had been on a roll at Triple A, allowing two runs or fewer in 13 of his 14 appearances. He has a 1.71 ERA and has been stretched out more in his last three starts, reaching 91 pitches the last two times. Mercado, who has a 96-97 mph fastball, could pitch in long relief but Thomson also said he'd be comfortable using him in one-inning stints because "the stuff plays."

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