Walker placed on IL, Turnbull returns to Phillies’ rotation – NBC Sports Philadelphia

Taijuan Walker is coming out of the Phillies’ rotation. At least temporarily.

Walker was placed on the 15-day injured list Sunday with inflammation in his right index finger. The move will be effective June 22.

Spencer Turnbull will rejoin the Phillies rotation on Wednesday in Detroit, against the organization that selected him in 2014, traded him multiple times in 2023 and nontendered him in November.

Right-hander Michael Mercado was called up from Triple A to take Walker’s place on the active roster. He will pitch out of the bullpen.

Walker has been dealing with a blister on his right hand. He hasn’t fared well in 10 starts, posting a 5.60 ERA with mediocre command, poor velocity and the absence of his primary out-pitch, the splitter.

Walker’s average fastball velocity during Friday’s loss to the Diamondbacks was just 90.3, his lowest this season by nearly a mile per hour. Overall this season, his four-seam fastball has averaged 91.6 and his sinker 91.1, compared to 93.1 and 92.6 last year.

To make matters worse, the splitter that held opponents to a .210 batting average and a 24% failure rate last season has held opponents to a .417 batting average this season and a 16.5% failure rate.

“I don’t know, I don’t know,” manager Rob Thomson said when asked how much time Walker might miss. “It all depends on his split-throw ability. That’s what really affects him. (The blisters) don’t just affect his fastball throwing. It affects when he puts the ball between his fingers.

“This has been going on for a while. It comes and goes. We really want to get this over with.”

The Phillies have a ready-made rotation replacement in Turnbull, who assumed the No. 5 spot in the rotation in April until Walker returned from shoulder trouble. Turnbull excelled in that early-season role, going 2-0 with a 1.67 ERA in six starts. He has occasionally pitched in long relief or one-off games since then, trying to find some semblance of rhythm in an unfamiliar situation.

The transition hasn’t been easy for Turnbull, but he’ll be in a more natural role now. Thomson expects to limit him to about 70 pitches on Wednesday. Turnbull threw 49 pitches in his most recent relief outing on Friday.

It remains to be seen what happens with Walker when he’s ready to return. The Phillies still have to pay the remainder of his $18 million salary this season, then a total of $36 million in 2025-26. They didn’t feel comfortable using him in the playoffs last year and he’s fallen to at least fifth on the Phillies’ depth chart of starting pitchers.

Walker doesn’t have a lot of flexibility in his role, either. He’s made just one relief appearance in the past 10 years, and it takes him longer to warm up than some starters, which is why he was put on the postseason roster last October only in case of a very long extra-inning game.

Mercado has been stellar in Triple A, giving up two or fewer runs in 13 of his 14 starts. His ERA is 1.71 and he has allowed more runs in the past three games, reaching 91 pitches the past two times. Mercado, whose fastball is 96-97 mph, can pitch in long relief, but Thomson also said he would be comfortable using him in one-inning stints because “that’s the stuff he plays.”

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