Phillies Ignored Pricey Starting Pitching, and Now They’re Paying
The Phillies suffered a heartbreaking loss to the division-leading Atlanta Braves on Friday night, only to pull one out in opposite fashion on Saturday. Sunday was the day the Phillies could take the series, coming within a half-game of their rivals. Instead, the Phillies opted to essentially concede the game and left Atlanta with a half-game lead. It was not just a loss; there are ups and downs in a season. But this one showed some bigger problems in the Phillies organization.
Pitcher Vince Velasquez was a member of the Phillies starting rotation in April. He was not good enough, so he lost his spot. Jerad Eickhoff was in the starting rotation until five days prior; he lost his spot. The Phillies also used Cole Irvin in the fifth spot in the rotation at times; he was not good enough to claim a spot.
Yet, the Phillies decided that these three pitchers would be what they would throw against their division rivals on Father's Day.
The result was a 15-1 shellacking that left the Phillies embarrassed, but worse yet, showing great weakness to their division rivals. Only Sean Rodriguez, the veteran infielder and outfielder making his pitching debut at age 34, was able to the lone 1-2-3 inning of the day.
Pitcher Jake Arrieta, who earned the victory Tuesday night against the Arizona Diamondbacks, could have taken the ball on normal rest. He did not. The message sent to the Atlanta Braves was that they would be ready to feast on mediocre pitching. The message sent to the Phillies lineup was not one that the team was particularly trying, either.
Phillies manager Gabe Kapler took some heat on Sunday for the loss. However, the Phillies front office has failed to give him some real solutions. Sure, Enyel De Los Santos, down at Triple-A Lehigh Valley could have pitched; he gave the IronPigs a quality start on Sunday. But this was a problem the Phillies front office has known about for a full calendar year, but failed to address.
The Phillies missed out on left-handed starter Patrick Corbin, who the Phillies will face in Washington tonight. The Phillies missed out also on J.A. Happ, too. Individually, each case seemed like it was for good reason: the teams who signed the players gave them too many years. However, the Phillies did not come up with an alternative.
Instead, the Phillies stuck with the starting rotation that blew the 2018 season for them. Sure, Jerad Eickhoff ended up being healthy and option number six. But they did not know that, even as camp opened in March, and they knew that he was not necessarily ready to pitch in the majors when they optioned him to the minor leagues at the end of camp.
We all know that the Phillies bullpen had seven major injuries. What is the best way to expose an overworked and band-aid-covered bullpen? That would be to overexpose them with poor starting pitching. The Phillies confused the bullpen situation even more, but using the pitcher who should be the new back-end option, Velasquez, to start the game.
The Phillies simply cannot wait to make a starting rotation addition. They did not like the price this offseason, and, they are not going to like the price in trade, either. But a team that sent its best pitching prospect in trade to acquire J.T. Realmuto and spent $330 million on Bryce Harper will see both investments wasted if they fail to acquire a starting pitcher.
The most expensive thing this Phillies can do is waste every fifth day. The new momentum around this Phillies team and on this Phillies team will disappear very quickly. They need a starter right now.