The Phillies made a move on the pitching staff this afternoon, optioning southpaw Bailey Falter to Triple-A Lehigh Valley. Reliever Erich Uelmen was recalled to take the open active roster spot.
Falter was pushed into an unexpectedly important season-opening role for Philadelphia. Spring Training injuries to Ranger Suárez and top prospect Andrew Painter ensured Falter would open the year in the starting five. Falter had started 16 of 20 appearances last season, working to a 3.76 ERA in that capacity, so it wasn’t an unfamiliar role. The Phils seemed likely to push him into a depth role if everyone were healthy but the aforementioned injuries threw both Falter and Matt Strahm into the rotation behind Aaron Nola, Zack Wheeler and Taijuan Walker.
The 26-year-old Falter has had a rough first six weeks to the season. He’s surrendered a 5.13 ERA over 40 1/3 innings as his strikeout rate has dropped from 21.2% to 16%. His swinging strike percentage has had a correspondingly notable dip from 11% to 7.6% this season. Falter has thrown plenty of strikes and likely been a bit unlucky to carry a 58.1% strand rate over his first eight outings. He’s given up seven home runs, though — an issue throughout his career — and seen the marked drop in whiffs.
Falter gave up six runs in 4 1/3 innings against the Giants last night. They were all technically unearned because they came with two outs in an inning in which Bryson Stott had committed an error, but Falter allowed eight hits (including a longball) out of 22 batters faced. That was enough for the Phils to go in a different direction for the time being.
Suárez is back from the injured list to take the fourth rotation spot. Philadelphia has been using Strahm out of the bullpen of late despite his strong start to the year out of the rotation. Manager Rob Thomson said this evening that Strahm was not an option to start Sunday against the Cubs, when Falter’s turn through the rotation will come up (via Scott Lauber of the Philadelphia Inquirer). He could work multiple innings behind an opener or as part of a bullpen game, while Thomson hinted the organization could also select the contract of a pitcher who is not currently on the 40-man roster.
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