With ace lefty Cole Hamels traded away to the Texas Rangers, the Phillies will face the 60 games remaining in their 2015 schedule with what will potentially become an evolving starting rotation.
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In the short-term, Aaron Harang makes the Thursday start in the opener of a 4-game weekend series with the Atlanta Braves at Citizens Bank Park. The big righty has not taken the mound since July 1st, nor won a game since May 14th. He returns following a DL trip due to plantar fasciitis.
After that, the club currently lists its rotation going forward with a bunch of TBD slots. That stands for “To Be Determined”, of course. But even before they make an official announcement, we can probably guess at least at a semblance of their plans.
David Buchanan, sent down to AAA Lehigh Valley due to open dates in the Phillies schedule, could be recalled, and is a candidate to start on Friday night. His previous start for the IronPigs came on Saturday of last weekend.
Keeping the rest of the current starters on their regular turns would then mean that Aaron Nola would go on Saturday night, Adam Morgan on Sunday afternoon, and Jerome Williams would open the series with the Dodgers on Tuesday night, following an off-day on Monday.
Also factoring into things is newly acquired lefty Matt Harrison, who has made three starts with the Rangers since coming off the DL back on July 8th. His most recent start came on Monday in Texas against the Yankees, so his regular turn would come up on either Saturday or Sunday. A lot on Harrison depends on his ability to get his affairs in order and get to Philly, but those things usually work out quickly.
If we assume that Harrison does indeed become slotted in for the Saturday or Sunday start, then Nola may go on Friday night, with Harrison and Morgan making the other weekend starts. That would mean the Phillies have until the Dodgers series to make a decision on whether to move forward with either Williams or Buchanan in the rotation.
Moving forward, the Phillies would love to see Harang and Williams stay healthy, pitch effectively over the next 3-4 weeks, get through waivers, and make themselves attractive, inexpensive trade chips for some team as September 1st approaches.
You can pretty much count Chad Billingsley and his balky elbow out of the picture now. He has likely made the final start of his brief Phillies career.
Severino Gonzalez could also factor back into the Phillies rotation at some point, as could either Sean O’Sullivan or 28-year old Anthony Vasquez, though the latter would need to be added to the club’s 40-man roster to make a visit to Philly possible before September.
Once September rolls around, there is the possibility that we could begin to see any of the team’s prospect pitchers, with Ben Lively, Jesse Biddle, Jake Thompson, or Alec Asher, the latter two from the Hamels deal, as the leading probables at that point.
One thing is for sure, especially if there are injuries or further trades, this is going to become a rotation in flux the rest of the way. Only Nola among the pitchers currently in that rotation can be considered as a definite piece of the team’s future. Both Buchanan and Morgan are clearly pitching to stay in that picture, considering all of the talented arms beginning to pile up behind them in the minors.
UPDATE: Harrison has been placed on the DL by the Phillies due to back soreness. For those who are unaware of the history of this major problem which he has battled, check the story at this link.