Phillies send struggling reliever packing, activate Taijuan Walker for debut

We knew the move to activate Taijuan Walker was coming, but are we ready?
The Philadelphia Phillies activated starting pitcher Taijuan Walker on Sunday
The Philadelphia Phillies activated starting pitcher Taijuan Walker on Sunday / Nathan Ray Seebeck-USA TODAY Sports

It was a move we all knew was coming for more than a week now, but on Sunday, the Philadelphia Phillies finally made it official: starting pitcher Taijuan Walker has been activated from the 15-day injured list. To make room on the 26-man roster, the Phillies designated struggling reliever Ricardo Pinto for assignment.

Walker will take the mound on Sunday afternoon to make his season debut against the San Diego Padres.

Pinto, 30, is the odd man out in this latest roster shuffle. The righty had a phenomenal and unforgettable four-inning season debut on April 2 but, since then, has struggled to produce MLB-worthy results. In his last five relief appearances, he has a 14.85 ERA in 6 2/3 innings — that's 11 runs on 14 hits.

Taijuan Walker's return a hotly debated issue

Walker began the season on the IL after multiple setbacks during spring training. It started with knee soreness early on that delayed his build-up and culminated in right shoulder impingement that forced the team to shut down the veteran hurler in late March.

Despite being absent from the team through the first month of the season, Walker hasn't been forgotten. His impending return to the rotation has been a hotly debated topic among Phillies fans and media. His alarmingly subpar rehab performance and rotation fill-in Spencer Turnbull's stellar start, has created a storm of controversy in Philadelphia.

Walker's velocity has been down all season, through his Grapefruit League appearances and rehab outings. In his final Triple-A start, the right-hander's four-seam fastball topped out at 90.4 mph.

Turnbull, on the other hand, has been a pleasant surprise for the Phillies. The 31-year-old has posted a 1.33 ERA and 0.85 WHIP through five starts and has helped to solidify one of the top rotations in the early season. Despite wanting to remain in the starting five, Turnbull will accept his expected fate.

According to Alex Coffey of The Philadelphia Inquirer, the Phillies will make an announcement about Turnbull after Sunday's game based on their bullpen situation. While another start for Turnbull is a possibility, it's expected he'll head to the bullpen as a long-relief and spot-starter option for manager Rob Thomson.