Phillies welcome back stud rookie reliever to the bullpen after IL stint

Orion Kerkering is finally back where he belongs, in the majors, after starting the season on the injured list.
Philadelphia Phillies relief pitcher Orion Kerkering has been activated from the injured list
Philadelphia Phillies relief pitcher Orion Kerkering has been activated from the injured list / Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

The Philadelphia Phillies are finally bringing one of the organization's most exciting arms back to the big league bullpen. The team announced on Sunday that rookie reliever Orion Kerkering has been activated from the 15-day injured list. To make room on the 26-man roster, Nick Nelson has been optioned back to Triple-A Lehigh Valley on Saturday.

Kerkering, who just turned 23, began the season on the IL (officially with a forearm strain) after going down with the spring training flu bug that traversed the Phillies clubhouse. It hit the youngster particularly hard as he didn't appear in a Grapefruit League game after March 1. Needing time to regain his strength and build up his arm, the team elected to start him in the minors.

Kerkering was eligible to be activated on Tuesday, but the Phillies wanted to make sure he was ready to go before bringing him back to the majors, so they gave him a pair of extra outings this week with one day off in between.

The good news is that Kerkering looks more than ready after his rehab stint. In four games split between Low-A Clearwater and Triple-A Lehigh Valley, the right-hander struck out 10 batters in 4 1/3 innings while only giving up two hits. He sat between 96 and 98 mph with his fastball.

Kerkering arrived in Philadelphia on Friday, and according to Paul Hagen of NBC Sports Philadelphia, said he felt great and ready to go.

“It’s not my decision. It’s up to the front office. But, body-wise, I feel great. I’m ready to go, whether it be here or [Triple-A] Lehigh Valley,” Kerkering said before Friday's game, per Hagen.

The casualty in this transaction, Nick Nelson, was recalled from Triple-A on opening weekend after Luis Ortiz sprained his ankle in the second game of the season and hit the 15-day IL.

The 28-year-old Nelson appeared in three games for the Phillies, throwing 3 1/3 innings with a 5.40 ERA but an extremely impressive 0.22 FIP and 1.95 xFIP. He struck out five of the 15 batters he faced while walking none and gave up two earned runs on six hits.

In his final option year, Nelson figures to be a face that Phillies fans will see again as the attrition of the six-month schedule takes its toll on the major league roster.