Phillies News

Thomson's decision to pull Turnbull proven costly in consecutive loss to Reds

The Phillies' bullpen paid the price Wednesday night after manager Rob Thomson decided to pull Spencer Turnbull after five strong innings.

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CINCINNATI – First, veteran righthander Spencer Turnbull was taken out of the game after five innings despite allowing just one run in five innings while striking out eight Wednesday night at Great American Ball Park.

Next, from every available shred of evidence, he’ll be taken out of the rotation despite a 1.33 earned run average in five starts.

The Phillies can only hope that the second decision works out better than the first.

Turnbull was figuratively signed off the baseball unemployment line as camps were opening, insurance against the possibility of needing a starter at some point this year. The Phils had to cash in that policy sooner than expected when Taijuan Walker was placed on the injured list with shoulder soreness before Opening Day. He’s healthy now, will start Sunday in San Diego and that’s just the way it goes. It may not seem fair, but them’s the breaks sometimes.

Rob Thomson had a more difficult call to make going into the bottom of the sixth against the Reds. Turnbull had thrown 89 pitches, but was coming off a 1-2-3 inning. The Phillies were up by two.

Turnbull got a congratulatory slap on the back. Reliever Seranthony Dominguez got the ball.


“He was going back out, but then (the Reds) made two pitching changes,” the manager said. “It took like 25 minutes. That’s why we made the change. If he had been at a (lesser) number of pitches I would have sent him back out. But once you’re in that 90 range, that’s a little long to wait.”

Said Turnbull: “I was ready to go back out, but it’s their decision. They were just trying to take care of me. Play it safe.”

There’s no way of knowing, of course, what would have happened if Turnbull had been allowed to pitch one more inning. But we know for damn sure what happened when he didn’t.

Dominguez got only two outs. He gave up four runs. His earned run average for the season jumped to 9.72. The Reds went on to win, 7-4. The seven-game winning streak is fast-fading memory as the Phillies have now dropped back-to-back games to Cincinnati. The Reds have also clinched the season series (4-2 with the last meeting between the two teams Thursday), which means they’d prevail in any tie-breaker scenario. Hey, you never know.

And, in maybe the cruelest cut of all, Turnbull was deprived of a possible win as he presumably heads for the bullpen to become a long reliever for the foreseeable future.

Thomson, predictably, insisted he’s not concerned with Dominguez’s overall lack of effectiveness so far. “He’s been kind of hot and cold, you know, but I always have confidence in him. Because he’s got a great arm,” the manager said. “I think this is going to be a big year for him. He had a tough time finding the plate in this game. He just needs to throw strikes.”

He walked two in his two-thirds of an innings Wednesday night and threw 32 pitches, just 16 for strikes.

Dominguez was not available for comment after the game.

The Phillies also ran themselves into two outs on the bases. In both cases – Alec Bohm in the first and Trea Turner in the fifth – the runner assumed the Reds were going to throw through and were caught in brief rundowns when they didn’t.

Bohm continued his hot streak with three singles, a double, a walk and 2 RBI. In his last eight games he’s 16-for-30 (.533).

On a busy night with lots of moving pieces, though, the storyline that stood out was that a starting pitcher who has been wildly successful in his five starts this year will soon be informed that that’s not good enough to stay in the rotation. Not for nothing, his ERA is tied for the fourth-lowest in the big leagues among all qualifying pitchers.

“I try not to worry about it,” he said, standing at his locker afterward. “I’m just going to focus on getting ready for my next start. All the other stuff is just noise and I’ll deal with it however it comes.

“Obviously, I’m aware of things but it’s out of my control. If things change, they change. Hopefully I’ve pitched well enough to give myself a chance to stay in that conversation. I know there are other factors involved, but they haven’t said anything to me yet. So I’m just going to gear up for my next start and see how it goes.

“I’ll do whatever they tell me. Like I said, it’s not my decision. I want whatever’s going to give the team the best chance to win is what I want to do. So if they say they’re going in a different direction, I’ve enjoyed my five starts so far. I feel great. I feel strong. I feel healthy. I’m not worried about innings limit or anything like that.”

Said Thomson: “He’s been fantastic this year. We couldn’t have expected anything more. He’s really thrown the ball well. But we have a 15-game winner (Walker) coming back who threw the ball pretty well for us last year.”

It’s also possible, of course, that the Phillies could go to a 6-man rotation later in the season when they have fewer off days. Or, heaven forbid, that another injury strikes the rotation. No matter what, it’s almost certain that he’ll start again at some point this season.

There are no sure things in baseball. Nobody knows that better than Turnbull right now.


Spencer Turnbull became the latest pitcher to complain that the mound at Great American Ball is flatter and lower than regulation. The Reds say they’ve repeatedly measured and that it meets MLB standards. . .Nick Castellanos, who has been in a season-long slump, was moved up from sixth to clean-up in the batting order. “Just to give him a little confidence. At some point he’s going to get hot. With him you don’t know when it’s going to happen. But it’s going to happen,” Rob Thomson said. It didn’t happen Wednesday night. Castellanos went hitless in five at bats, dropping his season average to .174. . .Bryce Harper, who has missed the last three games while on paternity leave, was in the clubhouse after last night’s game.


RHP Zack Wheeler (1-3, 2.30) will face Reds RHP Nick Martinez (0-0, 4.76) at 1:10 p.m. in the series finale Thursday at Great American Ball Park. Then the Phillies will fly to San Diego for a weekend series against the Padres. Matchups for Petco Park: RHP Aaron Nola (3-1, 3.16) vs. RHP Joe Musgrove (3-2, 5.74) Friday at 9:40 p.m., LHP Ranger Suarez (4-0, 1.36) vs. RHP Dylan Cease (3-1, 1.82) Saturday at 8:40 p.m. and RHP Taijuan Walker, making his first start of the season, vs. TBA Sunday at 4:10 p.m.

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