Phillies: Should they implement a six-man rotation in September?
How much work will the Phillies starters get in the final month of the season?
As the calendar turns to September the Phillies will expand their big league roster to add players off their 40-man for the playoff stretch. Jayson Stark of The Athletic suggests the Phillies could carry as many as 20 pitchers in the final month of the season to keep arms fresh.
Aaron Nola, Jake Arrieta, Vince Velasquez, Zach Eflin, and Nick Pivetta have combined to make 92% of the Phillies starts this year. Ben Lively started the year in the rotation, but was bounced out due to injury.
Prospects Enyel De Los Santos, Ranger Suarez, and Drew Anderson made a combined five spot-starts either during double-headers or for an injured player.
Because the Phillies rotation has stayed in tact, their arms are in uncharted territory.
Velasquez is two innings behind his career high, Pivetta is three over, and Eflin has a chance to double his career innings this year. Nola is already eight innings over and could push 200 innings.
One player the team has openly expressed intent of calling up is Jerad Eickhoff, who has missed the entire season with a lat strain and tingling in his fingers. Doctors ruled out Thoracic Outlet Syndrome, but Eickhoff has complained about numbness or weakness in his pitching fingers.
Eickhoff has thrown 31 innings during eight rehab starts across the Phillies minor league system, including a start Thursday night when he went five innings giving up three runs off six hits with four walks and two strikeouts.
Expectations are that Eickhoff goes to the bullpen as a long-man, something the Phillies haven’t had with Mark Leiter Jr. failing to repeat his success from last season.
It makes sense that the organization could give Eickhoff a start or two to see where he stands going into 2019. Unfortunately there are no double-headers remaining on the schedule for him to easily slot into the rotation for a day.
We might not see De Los Santos or Suarez while the Iron Pigs are in the playoffs because the organization wants the prospects to play together in a playoff atmosphere with the hope that they grow together at the major league level.
There’s a chance we could see those guys midway through September out of the bullpen, but they’ll be in unchartered territory as relievers in a major league playoff race.
Cole Irvin has had a dominant season for the Iron Pigs going 13-4 with a 2.67 ERA, but he’s not on the Phillies 40-man roster.
The Phillies have to be extremely careful with filling up the 40-man roster prior to the Rule 5 Draft, making sure they’re protecting prospects who are eligible based on minor league service time and not just because of top-level performances.
Philadelphia could designate a player for assignment like Mitch Walding, who is 0-10 with two walks in the big leagues, but hit .326 for the Iron Pigs in July.
Perhaps Drew Anderson is DFA’d despite being one of the organization’s top-30 prospects at one point in his career.
Regardless, 40-man roster moves will be made Saturday and there will be a microscope on them through the Rule 5 Draft process this winter.
I think at some point we see a spot start from Eickhoff, De Los Santos, and/or Suarez at some point to give the back end starters an extra day given their workload.