Phillies Mailbag: Covey, Picking a Lineup and a Playoff Rotation
We are back one again with the 97.3 ESPN Phillies mailbag. Each week we take your questions and answer them on The Sports Bash with Mike Gill. Send your questions at any time on X to @FrankKlose or text the show’s text line at 609-403-0973.
Why hasn’t Dylan Covey been DFA’d by now?
Well, Grover, I think there are a few reasons that Dylan Covey has remained on the Phillies roster. One is his roster status. Another was injuries and a lack of performance from others. And a third reason was a period of time that Covey has showed some promise.
Covey is out of minor league options, meaning that should the Phillies remove Covey from the major league roster, they could lose Covey on waivers to any other team who chooses to claim him. That is what happened to Covey with the Dodgers, and the Phillies were awarded a claim. The Phillies may prefer to have Covey under control than not.
A lot of that has to do with reason number two: There have been injured and underperforming Phillies.
Remember Connor Brogdon? He was supposed to be a big part of the 2023 Phillies bullpen. On June 9th the Phillies sent Brogdon to Triple-A Lehigh Valley. Since, he has compiled a 1-1 record and 7.36 earned run average. The Phillies even sent Brogdon to nine days on the Development List to try to work out his mechanics.
If Brogdon was performing, I cannot find a place on the roster for Covey.
Let us not forget that Andrew Bellatti has mostly been at Triple-A. Yunior Marte has his moments, but then has some moments that end in his option to Triple-A. Seranthony Dominguez was on and off the injured list. And even the Ranger Suárez injury has left the Phillies with that spot in the bullpen open.
There was a short period in which Covey showed some promise. I posted this on July 31, pointing out that Covey had gone 10 innings over seven appearances in which he had a 1.80 ERA. Since then, essentially as the mop up man, Covey has allowed just two earned runs in seven August innings.
With Marte and Luis Ortiz being recently optioned and ineligible to return unless there is an injury, I would think that Covey could have some more time. As the mop up man, I think you can live with what Covey has done.
The only other move I would consider right now in place of Covey is returning Nick Nelson from Triple-A. Mainly the only starting pitcher insurance the Phillies have, Nelson is 3-0 with a 1.93 ERA in August, averaging over six innings per start. As we get closer to September, that insurance might be needed less and his arm might be needed more.
We’ve seen a lot of different lineups throughout the season and assuming everyone is healthy for the playoffs, what would be the best lineup for the Phillies?
Well, Chris, there’s what I think the Phillies should do, and what the Phillies will do. I think that despite what I think is logical (and perhaps because the move has defied logic), Kyle Schwarber will be the leadoff hitter, whether we like it or not. The record speaks for itself: When Schwarber is there the Phillies have mostly own, though there are some days Schwarber and the rest of the lineup is quiet.
I would personally do this:
- Kyle Schwarber, DH
- Trea Turner, SS
- Bryce Harper, 1B
- Nick Castellanos, RF
- Bryson Stott, 2B
- Alec Bohm, 3B
- T. Realmuto, C
- Brandon Marsh, LF
- Johan Rojas, CF
I understand that there will be some days that Harper cannot play first base. In those situations, I would play the matchups accordingly given the day. Those days Schwarber is back in left field and an infield spot opens.
I think the Phillies face an interesting move: finding room for Cristian Pache. In some respects, Pache is redundant of Johan Rojas, as a right-handed center fielder who is not an established major league bat. I can see the Phillies optioning either Rodolfo Castro or Jake Cave.
I lean Castro to be optioned, personally, assuming that the Phillies are comfortable that Cave can play first base. Garrett Stubbs can fill-in at infield positions in a pinch, and J.T. Realmuto could also play first base if necessary.
Who will be The Phillies starting pitchers in the post-season and who goes to the bullpen?
Well, I think that this is a question that will have to play itself out. That is based upon two questions: Who is be performing best? When do the Phillies clinch?
A lot will depend when the Phillies clinch a playoff spot. Last year, the Phillies took until the last few days to fall backwards into a playoff spot. One would hope that this year, the Phillies hold the lead that they have right now and enter the playoffs as the first wild card. If they have a lead heading into the last few games of the season, they can take a break and set up the rotation.
If they have the luxury of doing so, then the Phillies should pitch according to how well they are pitching.
I understand that the seasons of Zack Wheeler and Aaron Nola have been somewhat of a rollercoaster ride. Both pitchers had rougher first innings their last two starts, before shutting down the opposition for six more innings in each start. I would think they are the choices to go first. Beyond that will be a toss-up among Taijuan Walker, Ranger Suárez, and Michael Lorenzen.
As I noted last week, Lorenzen had what could very well be the two best starts of his career in his first two Phillies starts. (I also noted that Phillies fans would see a poor start… well, you got that). What does he do down the stretch? Is the higher inning load that he has endured going to catch up to him? If he’s good, pitch him next.
What Taijuan Walker will we get the rest of the way? Walker was near dominant in the middle months of the season. But perhaps some fatigue/dead arm has set in. The Phillies gave Walker a breather. If he can recapture his earlier momentum, he might be who pitches third.
Then there’s Ranger Suárez. We saw how good Suárez could be last year. He is currently on the injured list with a hamstring issue. Will he return healthy and effective? He was the important number three starter last year.
The only thing I think we are sure of is that Cristopher Sanchez, despite his best efforts, probably is not making playoff starts. He could find himself on the roster, but as we saw in previous playoffs, the fifth starter rarely finds himself in playoff games. And let’s remember that Sanchez is the sixth starter.
So while I have no answer for you right now, I am sure we will find our answer over the next six weeks.