Philadelphia Phillies' starter Bailey Falter was optioned to Triple-A Lehigh Valley on Tuesday. The club recalled left-handed reliever Erich Uelmen to take Falter's spot on the 26-man roster.
Falter has struggled to begin the season. He is 0-7 with a 5.13 ERA on through eight games so far. The Phillies hope that Falter can find his confidence in the minor leagues while he works through his funk. According to the Philadelphia Inquirer's Scott Lauber, Falter is unsure as to where his problems lie. While Falter is pitching in Lehigh Valley, the Phillies will need to find a fifth starter option prior to the next turn through the rotation.
Right now, the Phillies will be looking internally as they have some prospects who could be ready soon. In the interim, who are some options within the organization that could hold the spot?
Phillies internal fifth starter options
One option to hold the fifth starter spot would be Nick Nelson— once he is healthy. Nelson has big-league experience, and while he will not light the world on fire, he could eat some innings for the Phillies. Nelson's season has been injury ridden, so his minor league numbers are tough to read too much into as some of his starts are simply rehab appearances. However, over 21 2/3 minor league innings, Nelson has a 1.25 ERA.
Cristopher Sánchez is another option to replace Falter in the rotation. He is a left-handed pitcher who has made a few spot starts in the Major Leagues. In his lone big-league start this season, Sánchez pitched 4 1/3 innings, allowed three earned runs, and struck out five as the Phillies beat the Colorado Rockies in April. His performance at Triple-A has not been as productive. The left-hander has a 6.14 ERA in 22 innings. He is allowing too many baserunners and has walked 17 batters. Sánchez needs to hone his command if he wants to crack the Major Leagues more consistently. He has some strikeout potential if he is under control.
Michael Plassmeyer is another left-handed starter in Triple-A. He made two starts for the Phillies in 2022 and pitched well as a spot starter. He was given a look to make the team out of spring training but did not show enough in March. Plassmeyer has some potential but has struggled this season in the minors. He has posted a 6.19 ERA over 32 innings. He does have 37 strikeouts in those innings, but like Sánchez has walked too many hitters to allow men on base. He could be an interesting option if he can limit walks and keep runners off base.
Noah Skirrow is a 24-year-old right-hander who could be the best option the Phillies have at this point. Through 30 2/3 innings in Triple-A, Skirrow has a 3.52 ERA and a much lower WHIP than Sánchez or Plassmeyer. He has not pitched in the Major Leagues before as he is so young but could be a potential fifth or sixth starter in the rotation while the Phillies await the arrival of one of their young pitching prospects.
Why not call up one of the Phillies top prospects?
While all Phillies fans are excited to see the likes of Andrew Painter, Mick Abel, and Griff McGarry in a Phillies uniform, they are simply not ready yet. Painter is the closest, but he is recovering from an elbow injury and the Phillies are in no hurry to rush such a young arm and risk further potential damage.
Abel has looked good in most of his starts in Reading this year so far. The one thing that still gets in his way is command. His worst start came last week when he surrendered nine earned runs in 3 2/3 innings while walking five batters. When Abel limits his walks, he has dominating stuff. The Phillies do not need to rush his development at this time.
McGarry is very close to being big-league ready. He began the year on the IL but has made a couple rehab appearances recently. McGarry has shown that he has really good stuff and he is a little older than Abel and Painter. While a call-up to Philadelphia is not imminent, it would not be surprising to see him in red pinstripes later this season.
None of the potential call-up names are All-Star options. The role of the fifth starter is to eat innings and keep the team in the game so that the offense has a chance. While there may be little excitement over the closest options to use as a fifth starter, the Phillies hope that one of them can fill the role until there is a better option.