What’s on Tap: Previewing Monday’s action

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We don’t give reliable back-end starting pitchers enough credit. I’ve thought as much since, as a Phillies fan, I watched nearly a decade of Kyle Kendrick. Kendrick certainly wasn’t a perennial Cy Young candidate, but he made 30 starts in four of his eight seasons with the Phillies and even worked out of the bullpen, particularly in 2011-12. Fans didn’t like Kendrick, though, because when he got hit, he got hit hard. I’d imagine Yankees fans feel similarly about Ivan Nova.

I preface that because Nick Tropeano is going for the Angels tonight against the Rangers’ A.J. Griffin in a 10:05 PM EDT start at Angel Stadium. Tropeano wasn’t supposed to be in the Angels’ rotation, but Andrew Heaney suffered a flexor strain at the start of the season. Tropeano, 25, made seven starts and one relief appearance for the Angels last year, serving mostly as an emergency starter until rosters expanded in September. He finished with a 3.82 ERA and a 38/10 K/BB ratio in 37 2/3 innings. Very solid numbers. So far this year, Tropeano has a 3.12 ERA with a 66/30 K/BB ratio in 66 1/3 innings spanning 12 starts.

Assuming he’s able to continue pitching well through the end of the season, Tropeano has likely secured himself a spot in the Angels’ rotation next year, as Jered Weaver and C.J. Wilson will become free agents. The rotation will then include Hector Santiago, Garrett Richards, Matt Shoemaker, and Heaney.

Tropeano has pitched excellently, but he would still be plenty valuable even if his ERA were 4.12 instead of 3.12. Maybe even 5.12. Nearly a decade ago, Jeff Sackmann of The Hardball Times found that the MLB average ERA for a number five starter was 5.94. As run-scoring has gone down since then — 4.86 runs per game in ’06, 4.48 in ’16 — it’s not quite that bad, but still shows just how tough it is to get reliable starting pitching at the back of the starting rotation.

To the Kyle Kendricks, Ivan Novas, and Nick Tropeanos of the world: I see you, and I respect you.

The rest of Monday’s action…

Baltimore Orioles (Kevin Gausman) @ New York Yankees (Ivan Nova), 7:05 PM EDT

Miami Marlins (Jose Fernandez) @ Philadelphia Phillies (Aaron Nola), 7:05 PM EDT

New York Mets (Steven Matz) @ Chicago Cubs (Jon Lester), 7:05 PM EDT

Atlanta Braves (Matt Wisler) @ Cincinnati Reds (Brandon Finnegan), 7:10 PM EDT

Minnesota Twins (Ricky Nolasco) @ Detroit Tigers (Matt Boyd), 7:10 PM EDT

Cleveland Indians (Corey Kluber) @ Kansas City Royals (Edinson Volquez), 8:15 PM EDT

San Diego Padres (Christian Friedrich) @ St. Louis Cardinals (Mike Leake), 8:15 PM EDT

Tampa Bay Rays (Drew Smyly) @ Colorado Rockies (Tyler Anderson), 8:40 PM EDT

Houston Astros (Mike Fiers) @ Oakland Athletics (Kendall Graveman), 10:05 PM EDT

Chicago White Sox (Chris Sale) @ Seattle Mariners (Wade LeBlanc), 10:10 PM EDT

Phillies’ Bryce Harper to miss start of season after elbow surgery

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PHILADELPHIA – Phillies slugger Bryce Harper will miss the start of the 2023 season after he had reconstructive right elbow surgery.

The operation was performed by Dr. Neal ElAttrache in Los Angeles.

Harper is expected to return to Philadelphia’s lineup as the designated hitter by the All-Star break. He could be back in right field by the end of the season, according to the team.

The 30-year-old Harper suffered a small ulnar collateral ligament tear in his elbow in April. He last played right field at Miami on April 16. He had a platelet-rich plasma injection in May and shifted to designated hitter.

Harper met Nov. 14 with ElAttrache, who determined the tear did not heal on its own, necessitating surgery.

Even with the elbow injury, Harper led the Phillies to their first World Series since 2009, where they lost in six games to Houston. He hit .349 with six homers and 13 RBIs in 17 postseason games.

In late June, Harper suffered a broken thumb when he was hit by a pitch and was sidelined for two months. The two-time NL MVP still hit .286 with 18 homers and 65 RBIs for the season.

Harper left Washington and signed a 13-year, $330 million contract with the Phillies in 2019. A seven-time All-Star, Harper has 285 career home runs.

With Harper out, the Phillies could use Nick Castellanos and Kyle Schwarber at designated hitter. J.T. Realmuto also could serve as the DH when he needs a break from his catching duties.