Phillies News: Taijuan Walker to make spring training debut sooner than we thought

The Phillies starter was scheduled for a bullpen on Friday but will make his spring training debut on Saturday instead.
Philadelphia Phillies starter Taijuan Walker will make his spring training debut on Saturday
Philadelphia Phillies starter Taijuan Walker will make his spring training debut on Saturday / Kevin C. Cox/GettyImages

The Taijuan Walker news has been keeping us on our toes this spring, that's for sure. As of Friday afternoon, Taijuan Walker's throwing schedule has changed yet again.

The right-hander was initially slated to throw a bullpen session on Friday. Instead, after the Phillies' 6-3 win over the Houston Astros on Friday afternoon, manager Rob Thomson told the media that Walker will make his spring training debut on Saturday against the Toronto Blue Jays.

According to NBC Sports Philadelphia's Corey Seidman, the plans changed because Walker feels good enough to skip the bullpen and subsequent days off to see how his knee reacts.

"He feels so good that we're just going to put him in the game," Thomson said, per Seidman.

Walker getting a late start to his second season as a Phillie

Walker missed some time from camp last week with a personal issue and then felt soreness in his right knee upon his return. The team described the soreness as "normal" but still elected to pull him back from pitching — or “lower the intensity” — for a few days (subscription required), per Alex Coffey of The Philadelphia Inquirer.

According to The Philadelphia Inquirer's Scott Lauber, his scheduled Friday bullpen was to be followed by a start in Monday's game against the New York Yankees or a live batting practice. Those plans are obviously out the window now.

Walker came into training camp hoping to erase the memories of being benched for the entire postseason last fall. He needs to reestablish himself in the rotation and have a more consistent 2024, his second season in Philadelphia, after signing a four-year, $72 million contract last winter. So far, things haven't gone smoothly in terms of getting built up for the 162-game grind of the regular season.

Last season, Walker made 31 starts but was wildly inconsistent. He posted a 6.11 ERA in May, followed by a 1.50 ERA in June. He only had one other month with a sub-4.00 ERA and finished the year with a 4.38 ERA and 1.31 WHIP. He still managed to amass a 15-6 record.

With just under three weeks remaining until Opening Day, the Phillies will be keeping their fingers crossed that he comes out of Saturday's start with a knee that feels normal — and not the kind that forces him to be shut down again.