Countdown to Opening Day

How Phillies' pitching staff looks without Walker and Kerkering

NBC Universal, Inc.

Throughout the majority of Phillies camp, it appeared only two spots were available on their season-opening 13-man pitching staff, both in the bullpen. The rotation looked set with five incumbents and six of eight relief jobs spoken for.

But a shoulder injury for Taijuan Walker and an illness for Orion Kerkering doubled the number of open spots on the staff, and now the Phillies seem to have landed on their group of 13.

With Walker sidelined, the season-opening rotation will almost certainly be Zack Wheeler, Aaron Nola, Ranger Suarez, Cristopher Sanchez and Spencer Turnbull, a veteran right-hander the Phillies signed to a one-year, $2 million contract with incentives to serve as rotation depth. That depth is being tested right out of the chute.

Turnbull started Saturday's Grapefruit League game against the Yankees and struck out five over three scoreless innings. He's been sharp this spring.

The Phils reassigned right-handed relievers Andrew Bellatti and Jose Ruiz to minor-league camp on Sunday morning.

The eight-man bullpen, barring any last-minute trades or signings, looks like Jose Alvarado, Gregory Soto, Matt Strahm, Jeff Hoffman, Seranthony Dominguez, Connor Brogdon, Yunior Marte and Luis Ortiz.

There is not a true long man in that group and the Phillies have wanted an option in the bullpen capable of providing length, but the Walker injury changed the equation a bit. It looked like Turnbull was in line for that spot before being pressed into more important duty.

As for Walker, it's certainly been a concerning start to 2024. He arrived in camp with a lot to prove after not appearing in any postseason games a year ago, but he quickly found himself behind schedule after dealing with a personal issue and right knee soreness. His velocity was noticeably down in his starts, sitting mostly in the 88-90 mph range and averaging 89. At his best in 2023, Walker threw the fastball 94-95. The pitch averaged 93.1 mph.

Walker told the team something didn't feel right in his shoulder and they're having it checked out. The Phillies made it out of Florida mostly healthy but not entirely, and this is why front offices care so much about stockpiling pitching depth over the winter.

Contact Us