July 21, 2024

The struggling starter has been placed on the injured list, giving the Phillies some breathing room as they figure out what to do with him.

When is it time to panic about the Philadelphia Phillies’ performance in the last ten games? Following Friday’s disheartening 5-4 loss to the Arizona Diamondbacks, the Phillies are currently 5-5 in their last ten games and lead the NL East by 7.0 games over the second-place Atlanta Braves, who are 8-2 and show no indications of giving up the division.

Taijuan Walker’s performance against the Diamondbacks on Friday served as yet another reminder that his finest days as a starter are behind him. The right-hander got pounded for four runs on three home runs and five hits, with three walks. He was removed from the game after just four innings.

Walker’s latest 77-pitch, four-inning catastrophe had Phillies fans shouting “We want Turnbull” as early as the second inning, despite many dismissing him as nothing more than an innings eater. The calls became louder in the third inning after Gabriel Moreno and Joc Pederson hit back-to-back home runs. By the time Spencer Turnbull joined the game in the fifth, the Phillies were behind 4-2.

It’s time for the Phillies to move on from Taijuan Walker

The team revealed before Sunday’s game that Walker had been placed on the 15-day injured list due to right index finger irritation. Spencer Turnbull will take his spot in the rotation.

Walker’s velocity has dropped substantially since the start of the season, with his four-seam fastball reaching only 91.3 mph. More concerning are the batting averages against three of his four pitchers, with opponents hitting.426 against his split-finger,.400 against his cutter, and.310 against his sinker.

With a bloated ERA of 5.60 in 53 innings, there is more than enough evidence to suggest that manager Rob Thomson should remove Walker from the rotation without looking back.

It’s unclear how the Phillies will handle Walker after he returns from the IL. With a contract that pays him $18 million each year until he hits free agency following the 2026 season, the Phillies would have to take a significant financial cost if they wanted to do anything extreme. Walker will almost certainly not be released or traded in the near future. He has become one of those historically disastrous free agency signings, reeking of buyer’s remorse.

The recent news that Walker has suffered yet another blister that is compromising his splitter puts light on only half of the story. While Thomson declined to provide a date for his return, it is evident that the Phillies have finally lost faith in Walker. By forcing him to spend time rediscovering how to efficiently throw one of his signature pitches, the Phillies have made it clear that they do not want to rush him back until they are satisfied he has resolved the difficulties that have plagued him on the mound this season. Thomson has been defending Walker for two years, and it appears that he has finally had enough.

 

Taijuan Walker: News, Stats, Bio, & More - NBC Sports - NBC Sports

 

With the trade deadline little over a month away, it seemed appropriate to give Turnbull a longer look as a starter before making more significant moves.

While the Phillies have questionable starting pitching depth in Triple-A, including Mick Abel and the newly recalled Michael Mercardo, Turnbull has shown since April that he is more than capable of getting the job done every fifth day. While Turnbull has only pitched about 130 innings over the last two seasons, the Phillies owe it to the team and the fans to see what Turnbull can do over a longer length of time without worrying about his health or Walker’s sentiments.

The Phillies have reached this position with Walker because they want him to be someone he is not, and will never be, while wearing a Phillies jersey. The pitcher they signed to a four-year, $72 million contract would never live up to the expectations that came with the deal.

Sending him out there every fifth day is unlikely to result in a breakthrough. That has become evident. Let’s hope the Phillies’ front office feels the same way.

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