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

The beleaguered starter has landed on the IL, buying the Phillies some time to figure out what to do with him.
Philadelphia Phillies pitcher Taijuan Walker
Philadelphia Phillies pitcher Taijuan Walker / Rich Schultz/GettyImages

When is the right time to reach for the panic button when it comes to the Philadelphia Phillies' performance over the last 10 games? After Friday's demoralizing 5-4 defeat at the hands of the Arizona Diamondbacks, the Phillies are now 5-5 in their last 10 and lead the NL East by 7.0 games over the second-place Atlanta Braves, who have gone 8-2 and show no signs of letting the division slip away.

Taijuan Walker's performance against the Diamondbacks on Friday was the latest reminder that his best days as a starting pitcher are well behind him. The right-hander was blasted for four runs on three home runs and five hits while allowing three walks. He was lifted from the game after only four innings.

For a pitcher many have written off as being nothing more than an innings eater, Walker's latest 77-pitch, four-inning debacle had Phillies fans chanting "We want Turnbull" as early as the second inning. The calls grew louder in the third following back-to-back home runs by Gabriel Moreno and Joc Pederson. By the time Spencer Turnbull entered the game in the fifth, the Phillies found themselves trailing 4-2.

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

Before Sunday's game, the team announced that Walker had been placed on the 15-day IL with right index finger inflammation. Spencer Turnbull will take his place in the rotation.

Walker's velocity has been noticeably down since the beginning of the season, with his four-seam fastball only reaching 91.3 mph. More troubling are the batting averages against three of his four pitchers, with opposing hitters batting .426 against his split-finger, .400 against his cutter, and .310 against his sinker.

Now carrying a bloated ERA of 5.60 in 53 innings, there's more than enough evidence to suggest that manager Rob Thomson should remove Walker from the rotation and not look back.

How the Phillies handle Walker after he returns from the IL is certainly up for debate. With a contract that will see him earn $18 million per year until he hits free agency after the 2026 season, the Phillies would have to eat substantial money if they plan on doing anything drastic. Releasing or trading Walker anytime soon is practically impossible. He has become one of those historically bad free agent signings that reeks of buyer's remorse.

The recent news that Walker has developed yet another blister, which is affecting his splitter, sheds a little light on only half the situation. While Thomson refused to give a timetable for his return, it's clear that the Phillies have finally lost trust in Walker. By forcing him to spend time working on rediscovering how to effectively throw one of his signature pitches, it's obvious the Phillies don't plan to rush him back until they are certain he has solved the issues that have plagued him on the mound all season. Thomson has steadily defended Walker for two years, and now it seems like he's finally had enough.

With the trade deadline just over a month away, the time seems right to give Turnbull an extended look as a starter before bigger decisions have to be made.

While the Phillies have unproven starting pitching depth in Triple-A like Mick Abel and the recently recalled Michael Mercardo, the signs have been there since April that Turnbull is more than capable of getting the job done every fifth day. While it's true that Turnbull has only pitched roughly 130 innings over the past two seasons, the Phillies owe it to the team and the fanbase to at least see what Turnbull can do for an extended period without being concerned about his health and Walker's feelings.

The Phillies have arrived at this point with Walker because they want him to be something that he's not, and never will be, while wearing a Phillies uniform. The pitcher they signed to a four-year, $72 million deal is never going to live up to the expectations that existed from that contract.

Sending him out there every fifth day isn't going to lead to a breakthrough. That's become clear. Let's hope the Phillies front office feels the same way too.