Rather than choose between Vincent Velasquez and Adam Morgan for the fifth and final spot in the starting rotation, the Phillies might just go with a six-man rotation, Jim Salisbury of CSN Philly reports. As Salisbury mentions, however, such a decision would leave the Phillies with less bench depth, something manager Pete Mackanin might not want to deal with.
Jeremy Hellickson, Aaron Nola, Charlie Morton, and Jerad Eickhoff are assured rotation spots. Eickhoff started on Tuesday after recovering from a fractured right thumb and pitched well, appearing as if he can get to full strength by the time the regular season begins.
Velasquez, 23, came to the Phillies from the Astros in the Ken Giles trade over the winter. He debuted last season, making seven starts and 12 relief appearances for the Astros, compiling a 4.37 ERA with a 58/21 K/BB ratio over 55 2/3 innings. The Phillies like Velasquez in a starting role at the moment, but some scouts think he could succeed in a high-leverage relief role as well.
Morgan, 26, also debuted last season, posting a 4.48 ERA with a 49/17 K/BB ratio over 84 1/3 innings for the Phillies. He doesn’t have nearly as much upside, but if the Phillies were to choose him for the fifth spot, it would allow them to give Velasquez a bit more seasoning at Triple-A.
The Phillies will be without corner outfielder Aaron Altherr for four to six months as he has undergone surgery to repair a torn extensor carpi ulnaris retinaculum. With utilityman Cody Asche battling a Grade 1 strain of his right oblique, only Peter Bourjos and Tyler Goeddel remain healthy on the depth chart in the outfield corners.
This increases the likelihood that a non-roster invitee like David Lough or Cedric Hunter makes the Opening Day roster, but as ESPN’s Jayson Stark noted on Buster Olney’s podcast on Tuesday, the club is also searching elsewhere for corner outfield help.
The thing is, there aren’t that many corner outfielders left in free agency. According to MLB Trade Rumors, there’s Marlon Byrd, David DeJesus, Alex Rios, Grady Sizemore, and Delmon Young. Three of them — Byrd, Sizemore, and Young — are former Phillies. The Phillies could try to acquire a corner outfielder in a trade, but they would need to find a team that has a capable player that’s superfluous to the roster and would cost little in terms of players. Athletics outfielder Sam Fuld has fallen down the depth chart with the acquisition of Khris Davis and the versatility of Chris Coghlan, so he would be one potential trade option. But overall, the players that would fit the Phillies’ specific criteria are few in number.
Even if the Phillies can’t find a fit, don’t expect them to feel pressured to have prospect Nick Williams make his major league debut earlier than expected. The 22-year-old is the club’s third-best prospect, according to MLB Pipeline.
Phillies starter Jerad Eickhoff will pitch three innings in a minor league game on Saturday, Meghan Montemurro of The News Journal reports. Eickhoff had been sidelined for the last three weeks after suffering a small fracture in his right thumb during a bunting drill.
Eickhoff, 25, was one of six players the Phillies received last summer in the trade that sent Cole Hamels and Jake Diekman to the Rangers. He impressed in eight starts, finishing with a 2.65 ERA and a 49/13 K/BB ratio in 51 innings.
Eickhoff is expected to be ready by Opening Day, when he’ll pitch out of the middle of the Phillies’ starting rotation.
The Phillies have been bitten by the injury bug often thus far in spring training, as the club lost outfielder Aaron Altherr for four to six months after tearing a tendon sheath in his left wrist. Utilityman Cody Asche has been diagnosed with a Grade 1 strain of his right oblique.
Mark Appel got a fresh start when he was traded from the Astros to the Phillies this offseason as part of the Ken Giles deal, but the former No. 1 overall pick won’t be making the Opening Day roster.
That isn’t a big surprise, but Appel was sent to the minors today as one of the Phillies’ first cuts of spring training. Basically, they treated him like a random minor leaguer not close to being ready for the majors.
Appel split last season between Double-A and Triple-A, posting a 4.37 ERA and 110/51 K/BB ratio in 132 innings. He’s still just 24 years old and has a mid-90s fastball, but Appel has yet to put together any kind of consistently impressive stretch in the minors and has a career ERA of 5.12 as a pro.
His odds of making his MLB debut this season are pretty solid because the rebuilding Phillies figure to cycle through a bunch of different pitchers, but his name recognition is much, much higher than his prospect stock.
As an aside: Appel was the first pick in the 2013 draft. The second pick that year? Kris Bryant, who won Rookie of the Year for the Cubs last season.
Giants outfielder Hunter Pence underwent a precautionary MRI exam on his injured Achilles’ tendon today and is expected to be held out of games for at least a week, according to Henry Schulman of the San Francisco Chronicle.
Pence downplayed the severity of the injury, saying “it feels great today” and “we’re being extremely conservative” by taking some early time off.
Missing a week of action now would basically have zero effect on Pence’s ability to be ready for Opening Day and in fact some teams limit their star players’ action in early games every spring. Still, it’s something for Giants fans to keep an eye on.