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Phillies have decision to make on Taijuan Walker, and if he's healthy enough to remain in the rotation

Philadelphia Phillies' Kyle Schwarber hosts event to raise money for his foundation
Philadelphia Phillies' Kyle Schwarber hosts event to raise money for his foundation 00:24

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) -- Taijuan Walker says he's healthy. Rob Thomson and the Philadelphia Phillies may not be so sure. 

Walker struggled in his latest start for the Phillies, not making it past the fourth inning in a 5-4 loss to the Arizona Diamondbacks on Friday night. On a night where Cole Hamels retired as a member from the Phillies, Walker pitched more like Adam Eaton in those days Hamels was leading the Phillies deep into October.

Walker gave up four runs in those four innings, including back-to-back home runs from Gabriel Moreno and Joc Pederson in the third inning. With the fans chanting "We Want Turnbull," the pitcher who Walker replaced in the rotation back in May, Walker allowed four earned runs on five hits while striking out three and walking three. 

Through 10 starts, Walker has an ERA of 5.60. Three Phillies starters (Ranger Suarez, Zack Wheeler, Cristopher Sánchez) have ERAs under 3.00 and the other (Aaron Nola) has an ERA of 3.54.

Simply put, the Phillies are going to have the conversation if Walker is healthy or not. If the Phillies are going to make a decision on Walkers' fate in the rotation, Thomson said that's an inside-the-clubhouse conversation. 

"I'm going to sit down with him tomorrow, just to make sure he's healthy," Phillies manager Rob Thomson said Friday night. "That's why I want to ask the question. It looks like he's trying to create it [velocity on his fastball]. That's when he misfires. I just want to make sure he's healthy."

Walker's fastball averaged just 90.5 mph on the night, yet he says he's "100% fine."

Arizona Diamondbacks v Philadelphia Phillies
PHILADELPHIA, PENNSYLVANIA - JUNE 21: Taijuan Walker #99 of the Philadelphia Phillies delivers a pitch against the Arizona Diamondbacks during the first inning of a game at Citizens Bank Park on June 21, 2024 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Rich Schultz / Getty Images

"The velocity, if I'm locating my fastball, is good," Walker said. "My arm felt really good today. I thought the ball was coming out good. You know, 91-92. I guess I'm trying to create more velocity and it's not happening."

The Phillies do have an option if they decide to remove Walker from the rotation, whether he's healthy or not. Spencer Turnbull allowed just a .148 average and a .489 OPS to opposing hitters when he was filling in for Walker in the starting rotation in April.

Turnbull was removed from the rotation to manage his workload, as he only threw 81 innings over the past three seasons. He's thrown 32.1 innings as a starter and 16.0 as a reliever. The Phillies could be ready to go back to Turnbull. 

"I thought he was fine," Thompson said after Turnbull gave the Phillies three shutout innings in relief of Walker. "Did his job. Those guys held it right there and gave us a chance to come back."

Walker uses his splitter in 18% of his starts, yet the pitch hasn't been as effective as it has in the past. He doesn't seem to have an answer for why the pitch isn't as effective either.

"The problem right now is it's just not there," Walker said. "The last two years, I've been throwing it so much, it's kind of been my bread and butter. It's been my go-to pitch in tough situations."

"Right now, it's just not there," Walker added. "I'm busting my butt, doing what I can to find it. It just really isn't there."

The Phillies may be running out of time for Walker to figure it out. The conversation if Walker is actually healthy will go a long way toward what they decide to do next.

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