The Philadelphia Phillies have enjoyed strong competition this spring for the 5th starter role in the pitching rotation.
Buchanan was knocked out early, as his Grapefruit League performances only served to remind everyone that he is a mediocre big league option at best. The club decision-makers then made the choice to go with Oberholtzer as a left-handed option out of the bullpen.
Those moves left the battle as a head-to-head one between Morgan and Velasquez. Both have pitched well throughout the spring, and Morgan was left-handed, so there were some who saw him as having the inside track.
However, the club decided to go with the power arm of Velasquez over the organizational pitcher Morgan.
“It was a very tough decision,” manager Pete Mackanin said per Philly.com’s Matt Gelb. “It was a nice situation to have to decide something because we think the world of Morgan. He pitched very well this spring. We like both of them. We like Velasquez’ power arm. We want to see him in the big leagues. We know what Morgan is capable of doing. Nobody ever stays with five starters the whole year so he’s going to be back in the big leagues this year.“
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Morgan battled back from shoulder injuries to finally make his big league debut last season. The 26-year old had been the Phillies’ 2nd round pick in the 2011 MLB Amateur Draft.
Velasquez came in the big Ken Giles trade with Houston as one of the centerpieces of that deal. Many have seen him as a future bullpen arm, possibly a closer. But at least for now, the 23-year old who was the Astros’ 2nd round pick in the 2010 MLB Amateur Draft has earned a rotation spot.
Morgan did nothing to lose the battle. Over nine Grapefruit League innings he has allowed just four hits and two earned runs. However, Velasquez has been overpowering at times. He has allowed just 15 hits in 20 innings, with a 24/7 K:BB ratio.
The Phillies would love to think that they can get through the season with the starting rotation of Jeremy Hellickson, Aaron Nola, Charlie Morton, Jerad Eickhoff, and Velasquez, but that is unrealistic. Whether due to injury, ineffectiveness, or trade, there will be openings and opportunities. Morgan is putting himself front and center for the first shot.