4 emergency options for the fifth starter spot if Sánchez falters in spring training

Cristopher Sánchez is currently slotted in at the back end of the Phillies rotation, but we look at four alternatives if things don't go as planned for him.
Championship Series - Philadelphia Phillies v Arizona Diamondbacks - Game Four
Championship Series - Philadelphia Phillies v Arizona Diamondbacks - Game Four / Sean M. Haffey/GettyImages
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It's one of the most exciting times of the year, with pitchers and catchers reporting around the majors. The hope and anticipation are almost palpable, including for the Philadelphia Phillies.

In fact, the Phillies are one of the teams with more hope and anticipation than most, after being on the doorstep of winning it all the past two seasons. Of course, the question is if they can finally go all the way in 2024 and win their first World Series since 2008 and third in franchise history.

One of the keys to how far the Phillies go is, of course, their starting rotation, and as things stand it's set with Zack Wheeler, Aaron Nola, Ranger Suárez, Taijuan Walker and Cristopher Sánchez. However, there's a lot that can go wrong, particularly with injuries, slumps or an outright loss of form.

Along these lines, what backup plan do the Phillies have for the back end of the rotation, particularly if Sánchez does not pan out? Here is a look at four emergency options if he falters during spring training.

Spencer Turnbull

Of the four emergency options, Spencer Turnbull conceivably has the widest extremes in terms of what he can offer. He is just as capable of being the best option of the four names mentioned in this article, or the worst.

For what it's worth though — and of most importance — Dave Dombrowski clearly has faith when it comes to Turnbull. The Phillies' president of baseball operations recently signed the pitcher to a one-year deal worth $2 million which, as per Todd Zolecki of MLB.com, includes performance bonuses.

Part of the reason for this move more than likely stems from Dombrowski having a background with Turnbull. He was Detroit Tigers president and general manager when the righty was selected by the team in the second round of the 2014 Draft.

Being drafted so high alluded to Turnbull having some intriguing upside, and in this respect, he has had his moments. He really looked like he was starting to settle in as a major league starter during the COVID-impacted 2020 campaign, and this spilled over into an outstanding beginning the following season.

The 31-year-old was in a groove early on in 2021, as he went 4-2 in nine starts, producing a 2.88 ERA, 2.95 FIP and tremendous 0.980 WHIP in the process. His highlight was undoubtedly pitching his first major league no-hitter, which was also the eighth in Tigers history.

Then disaster struck, as Turnbull suffered an injury which ultimately resulted in season-ending Tommy John surgery. He would also miss all of the following year, as he continued his rehabilitation.

Turnbull finally returned to action last season and perhaps understandably struggled. He went 1-4 in seven starts, as he recorded career-worsts of a 7.26 ERA, 5.55 WHIP and 1.677 WHIP.

The Demopolis, Alabama native then suffered more adversity, as he was placed on the injured list in May due to a neck issue. When he was finally reactivated towards the end of August, he was optioned to Triple-A for the remainder of the season.

The Tigers subsequently decided not to make an offer after the season to Turnbull, and he became a free agent. Now, he will look to get his career back on track in Philadelphia, with a lot of uncertainty over what to expect from him.

In this respect, it should be noted Turnbull also struggled in Triple-A last year following his return from injury, with a 6.86 ERA and horrendous 1.962 WHIP in six starts. Now the Phillies wait in anticipation to see if he can get back to his form of 2021, or if that proves to be a peak which he will never return to.