Phillies News

Phillies notes: Kerkering joins the club in Philly, Rojas rests again

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Orion Kerkering is back to feeling the way he did last season. Which is to say, how he felt when he zoomed through the Phillies farm system from Clearwater to Jersey Shore to Reading to Lehigh Valley to making his Major League debut the season after he was drafted to appearing in seven postseason games.

Which is to say, how he felt while he was on his way to winning the Paul Owens Award given annually to the top minor league pitcher in the organization. Which seems fair, considering that he had a 1.51 earned run average in 49 games before being called up and struck out 79 in 53 2/3 innings while walking just 12.

Which is to say, although manager Rob Thomson said no final decision has been made, there’s no apparent reason why Kerkering (forearm strain) won’t come off the injured list as early as Sunday after striking out the side in his most recent rehab appearance for Class A Clearwater on Thursday night.

“It’s not my decision. It’s up to the front office. But, body-wise, I feel great. I’m ready to go, whether it be here or [Triple-A] Lehigh Valley,” the 23-year-old righthander said before Friday night's game against the Pirates at Citizens Bank Park.

He and righthander Taijuan Walker (shoulder soreness) who started the game Kerkering finished against the Fort Myers Mighty Mussels, caught a 7 a.m. flight from Tampa to Philadelphia Friday morning.

Walker will make his next rehab start for Lehigh Valley on Tuesday night with a goal of throwing around 80 pitches.

Thomson said he’s happy with the reports he’s gotten on Walker’s stuff “and he’s trending up, which is a good sign.” The manager added that after Tuesday the veteran will likely need “one or two, maybe three” more starts before being activated.

Kerkering figures to be another weapon for a Phillies bullpen that has, for the most part, been an early season success story. The hope is to gradually ease him into more high-leverage roles as the season goes on. “His stuff’s ninth inning. The makeup is ninth inning,” Thomson said. “I don’t think we use him there right away. But all the tools are there.”

Resting Rojas

Centerfielder Johan Rojas, who had three hits Monday night in St. Louis but is batting .161 for the season, was out of the lineup for the second straight night Friday.

Rob Thomson said this is “just a little bit [of a re-set]. Just let him sit and watch for a minute. He’s been playing a lot, so it’s not going to hurt him to have a couple days off. He’ll be back in there [Saturday].”

The manager also wanted to get lefthanded-hitting Brandon Marsh and Bryson Stott some at bats against lefthanders (Bailey Falter starts for the Bucs Friday night) and to try to help Whit Merrifield out of his early funk with some regular playing time.

Thomson said Rojas appears to be weathering his offensive struggles well. “He still has energy. He still comes out and does his work. But I know that when a young guy comes up to the big league, trying to hold his own and not having much to show for it, it can wear on you. But I think he’s handled it very well,” he said.

Up next

Pirates LHP Marco Gonzalez (0-0, 2.45) vs. RHP Spencer Turnbull (1-0, 0.00) Saturday at 4:05 p.m.

Pirates RHP Mitch Keller (1-1, 5.29) vs. RHP Zack Wheeler Sunday at 1:35 p.m.

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