With Hurricane Isaias ripping through the northeast Tuesday, the Philadelphia Phillies-New York Yankees scheduled matchup at Yankee Stadium has been postponed, and will be made up as part of a double-header Wednesday at Citizens Bank Park.
The Phillies don’t have a scheduled off day until Aug. 17, and there’s a very real possibility they’ll have to make up a game that day. In other words, the Phillies need all hands on deck, especially from their starting rotation.
Aaron Nola will start the first game of the team’s double-header Wednesday. Nola struck out seven in his season debut, but also gave up four runs over 5 1/3 innings in an opening day loss to the Miami Marlins. This will mark the 27-year-old’s first start in 11 days.
Zack Wheeler will start in the second game of the double-header. Wheeler was excellent in his Phillies debut, inducing four double plays across seven innings of one-run ball against the Marlins. To this point, Wheeler’s start is the only game that the Phillies have won in 2020.
Both games of the double-header will be only seven innings long, meaning there’s a chance for Nola or Wheeler to pitch complete games. Either way, Joe Girardi should be able to limit the amount of middle relievers he has to use, a good thing given the struggles of that part of the bullpen thus far.
Things get a little less clear after Nola and Wheeler, though prior to Tuesday’s game being postponed, Girardi had planned to have Zach Eflin make his season debut Thursday in the series final against the Yankees. One would think that will happen, and the same thing for Vince Velasquez’s scheduled start against the Atlanta Braves at Citizens Bank Park on Friday.
Jake Arrieta gave up seven hits and three runs across five innings at Yankee Stadium Monday night. The 34-year-old is on pace to make his second start Saturday, in the second game of the series against the Braves.
What about Sunday? Given that neither Nola or Wheeler will be on full rest, could that be the day that No. 1 overall prospect Spencer Howard makes his Major League Debut?
“Obviously, it’s something that we’re going to have to talk about,” Girardi said after Monday night’s loss when asked about Howard potentially being called up.
“At some point we’re going to need someone,” Girardi added, before conceding that day will likely be the series finale against the Braves Sunday.
Scott Lauber of The Philadelphia Inquirer reported Monday that Howard’s next scheduled intrasquad start is also Wednesday at Lehigh Valley, though the Phillies could theoretically make some adjustments to assure that the 24-year-old gets some work in, but is also prepared to start for the Phillies four days later.
The Phillies do have options other than Howard with major league starting experience, such as Nick Pivetta and Cole Irvin. Could the Phillies tab one of those two to make a spot start on Sunday? They could, but Howard needs to build up his innings so he isn’t at a disadvantage next season, and there’s a legitimate case to be made that Howard gives the team a better chance to win.
The truth is, whether Howard makes his debut Sunday or not, he’ll need to play some role for the Phillies to reach the playoffs in 2020. And with the Phillies needing to make up games in a schedule already filled with limited off days, there’s a real chance Eflin, Velasquez, Pivetta and Irvin will have to as well.
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