Phillies' young reliever Orion Kerkering has a promising start to his rehab assignment

Based on the first two games of the season, the Phillies could certainly use the right-hander in the bullpen.

Philadelphia Phillies reliever Orion Kerkering began his rehab assignment on Saturday
Philadelphia Phillies reliever Orion Kerkering began his rehab assignment on Saturday / Tim Nwachukwu/GettyImages
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At least the Philadelphia Phillies got some good news on Saturday.

Legitimate help could be coming to their battered and bruised bullpen soon. Last season’s end-of-year rookie sensation Orion Kerkering officially began his rehab assignment this weekend with the Phillies’ Triple-A affiliate Lehigh Valley IronPigs. Kerkering had been recovering from what was officially labeled a strained right forearm after missing most of March with an illness and needing time to build up his arm.

On Saturday, Kerkering came on in the sixth inning against the Worcester Red Sox following a solid start by Kolby Allard, who was one of the Phillies’ key offseason depth signings. In Kerkering's first game action since the beginning of March, he looked great, throwing 14 pitches, of which 11 were strikes, giving up one hit and recording a strikeout in one inning of work.

More importantly, despite giving up some hard contact with his fastball, he was sitting between 96 and 97 mph, topping out at 98 mph on the radar gun while showing no ill effects of his injury. On top of that, his sweeping slider looked ready and nasty, according to The Morning Call's Tom Housenick.

Last year, Kerkering made all the headlines for the Phillies when he was called up to the majors near the end of the season following his exceptional performance in the minors. Despite seeing action in only three regular season games, the audition proved his worth and convinced the Phillies to include him on the postseason roster.

During the playoffs, Kerkering pitched to a solid 3.38 ERA while giving up just two earned runs with five strikeouts in 5 1/3 innings of work in seven appearances. He may have struggled a bit during the NLCS against the Arizona Diamondbacks, but the right-hander left a strong enough impression that he would indeed be a key member of the Phillies bullpen in 2024, and for years to come.

After seeing the Phillies’ relief corps get lit up by the Atlanta Braves in which they gave up a whopping 14 runs in the past two games, Kerkering’s eventual arrival can’t come soon enough. The Phillies will certainly hope that he can help provide some stability to their bullpen in leading the club back to their winning ways in the not-so-distant future.

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