Phillies Injury Update: Kerkering shows he is ready to return after latest rehab outing

The talented reliever is working his way back to the majors with a solid performance in Clearwater's home opener on Friday.
Championship Series - Philadelphia Phillies v Arizona Diamondbacks - Game Six
Championship Series - Philadelphia Phillies v Arizona Diamondbacks - Game Six / Elsa/GettyImages

Orion Kerkering is working his way back to the Philadelphia Phillies after not pitching for several weeks in spring training due to the flu. The talented 23-year-old did not pitch much as he dealt with the flu at the beginning of March, which affected his strength. The club placed him on the 15-day IL on March 28 with a right forearm strain.

Kerkering has looked good in rehab outings

The Huntington Beach, California, native appeared with the Phillies' Triple-A affiliate, the Lehigh Valley IronPigs, in the club's second game of the regular season on March 30. Kerkering threw one inning and had one strikeout in Lehigh Valley's 5-2 loss to the Worcester Red Sox. He didn't allow an earned run, a hit, or a walk in his relief appearance.

Kerkering pitched with the Phillies High-A Clearwater Threshers on Friday night in their first game of the year. The right-hander went 1 1/3 innings, had four strikeouts, and earned the win for the team in a 5-2 victory. He didn't allow any earned runs, hits, or walks during his second official rehab appearance (he also pitched in an intrasquad game in Clearwater on Tuesday).

On Friday, his fastball had good velocity — between 96 and 98 miles per hour. Last year with the Phillies, Kerkering primarily threw a sweeper, according to Baseball Savant. He used the sweeper 85 percent of the time, followed by a four-seam fastball at 13.3 percent. He featured a sinker in his pitch arsenal at 1.7 percent.

Phillies eager to welcome Kerkering back to the bullpen

The right-hander is expected back with the Phillies shortly, possibly within the next week. He is eligible to return from the IL on April 9. Manager Rob Thomson commented on how the club will ease Kerkering back into action with the Phillies: "We'll see what we do. We want to make sure that he's good and we're not putting him at risk."

The franchise has dealt with injuries to some relievers, including Michael Rucker (right-hand arterial vasospasm) and Dylan Covey (right shoulder strain). The last time either appeared for the Phillies was during spring training on March 1. Luis Ortiz sustained a sprained left ankle during Philadelphia's 12-4 loss to the Atlanta Braves on March 30.

After surprising the Phillies fanbase at the end of the regular season last year, there is excitement around Kerkering's return to the majors. Philadelphia could benefit from his presence following Connor Brogdon being designated for assignment on April 2.