Phillies give disappointing update on reliever who might not be ready for Opening Day

It sounds like Orion Kerkering won't be ready to go on March 28 when the Phillies open the season at Citizens Bank Park.

Philadelphia Phillies relief pitcher Orion Kerkering might not be ready to Opening Day
Philadelphia Phillies relief pitcher Orion Kerkering might not be ready to Opening Day / Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports
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It's getting down to crunch time for the Philadelphia Phillies. As the coaching staff and front office attempt to whittle down the roster and decide who will join the team for Opening Day, disappointing news out of spring training points to an exciting young reliever who might not be in the bullpen on March 28.

According to MLB.com's Todd Zolecki, there's a possibility that relief pitcher Orion Kerkering won't be ready to start the season with the Phillies. Manager Rob Thomson told the media on Monday that they don't want to "push" the youngster, who hasn't pitched since March 1.

The 22-year-old went down with the flu bug that has made its way through the Phillies' clubhouse this spring. Apparently it hit the rookie pitcher hard enough to delay his build-up for the regular season. The good news is that Kerkering will be ready to resume throwing soon. Thomson told the media that the right-hander will throw at the complex "sometime this week."

Kerkering has only thrown two innings in Grapefruit League action thus far, with two strikeouts and only one hit allowed.

It's tough to hear that one of the Phillies' most exciting bullpen arms likely won't be starting the season with the team, but at least it's not an injury that will keep him down long. After exploding onto the major league stage late last year, Kerkering looked to have a spot in the Phillies relief corps all but carved out this spring. Now, his late start will open up an extra spot for one of the team's depth pieces.

Who might the Phillies pick to fill Kerkering's spot?

While we already had no idea what the Phillies were planning to do with the last two bullpen spots, Roster Resource predicts that Connor Brogdon and Spencer Turnbull will start the year in Philadelphia. The new third opening, if Kerkering indeed is unable to make Opening Day, could go to Max Castillo as an extra long-man innings-eater. They also have relievers Michael Mercado, Luis Ortiz, and Yunior Marte on the 40-man roster.

Mercado's ERA this spring isn't the prettiest at 6.35, but he has been all around the strike zone with a 38.5 percent strikeout rate and a 3.8 percent walk rate — that's 10 punchouts and one walk in 5 2/3 innings.

Yunior Marte has a much cleaner 0.00 ERA, 1.04 WHIP, and six strikeouts in 7 2/3 spring innings. He also has five walks with a 20 percent walk rate, which makes it tough to survive in the bullpen. Luis Ortiz has pitched eight innings so far, with a 3.38 ERA, 1.00 WHIP, five strikeouts, and only two walks.

We'll have to wait for the final verdict on Kerkering's status for Opening Day, but rest assured, we'll see him back in the majors as soon as he's ready to go.

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