Struggling Phillies starter heads for MRI, could start the season on IL

Taijuan Walker may start the season on the IL after his rocky spring just got worse. Who will take his place?
Philadelphia Phillies v New York Mets - Game One
Philadelphia Phillies v New York Mets - Game One / Adam Hunger/GettyImages

What started as a small series of setbacks for Philadelphia Phillies starter Taijuan Walker this spring got much worse on Saturday. According to a report from The Philadelphia Inquirer's Scott Lauber on social media, Walker's throwing shoulder "didn't feel right" as he tossed a scheduled bullpen session ahead of his Monday start against the Cincinnati Reds.

Following news that the Phillies are sending Walker for an MRI on his shoulder, it's fair to call into question his status for the beginning of the season with Opening Day less than a week away. So far this spring, Walker has been slowed by a knee injury that delayed his first start in Grapefruit League play, and when he was on the mound, the results weren't much better.

Over two appearances, Walker has been demolished by hitters, to the tune of a 15.43 ERA in 4 2/3 innings. Overall, Walker is 0-1 and has allowed seven hits and eight runs (all earned) while allowing four walks and striking out four. In his most recent start, Walker was blasted by the Baltimore Orioles when he gave up three home runs while walking two in his 2 2/3 innings of work.

Walker's velocity has noticeably been down this spring. Wednesday's start saw the veteran right-hander only touching 92 mph on the radar gun with his fastball, a big difference from the 94-96 that Walker has thrown when healthy.

Phillies could turn to Spencer Turnbull to replace Walker

According to The Athletic's Matt Gelb in a social media post, the Phillies could begin the season with free agent addition Spencer Turnbull in the rotation in the event that Walker should begin the regular season on the IL. Signed to a minor league contract on Feb. 14, Turnbull has been a starter for most of his five-year career, which was previously spent with the Detroit Tigers.

The results of Taijuan Walker's MRI should provide greater detail into the extent of the injury and what type of IL stint he could be facing to begin the season. While nothing has been announced yet, the Phillies will likely have their starting pitching depth challenged to begin the 2024 season.