The Phillies entered Friday with three starting pitchers ranked among the major league’s top 20 in innings, which was enough motivation for them to use the rainstorm that postponed Wednesday’s game in Cincinnati to find extra rest for Aaron Nola and Zach Eflin.
Eflin, originally scheduled to pitch Saturday, will now pitch Wednesday on nine days’ rest. Nola will pitch Tuesday, seven days after his last start.
“It’s almost like giving them an All-Star break in a sense,” Phillies manager Joe Girardi said. “Sometimes you try to give guys extra rest at the All-Star break. Because you got to figure when we get to the All-Star break, that’ll probably be the last time we can maybe do it. So we’re trying to do it here.”
Nola’s 70 1/3 innings tied for 14th Friday among all pitchers. Eflin’s 68 innings ranked 19th. Zack Wheeler ranked fifth with 75 innings.
Wheeler started Friday on six days’ rest thanks to Thursday’s off day. His next start will also be on six days’ rest due to Monday’s off day.
The Phillies already had six days off this month before Wednesday’s game was postponed. Girardi said the Phillies were being “proactive instead of reactive” by giving their pitchers extra rest.
“I think that no one’s really going to necessarily say, ‘Yeah, let’s do that.’ Right,” Girardi said of the pitchers. “But I think they understand what we’re trying to do here. A lot of times I feel that you have to protect a player from themselves because their competitive nature always shows up. But in explaining it to the guys, I think they understand that we’re just being somewhat careful because we’re coming off a situation that we really haven’t come off before,” referring to the abbreviated 2020 season.
With the rotation shuffled, the Phillies now line up Nola, Eflin, and Wheeler to face Atlanta next week in South Philadelphia. Girardi said the team did not align their rotation to get their best shot at the second-place Braves, but it did work out that way for the Phils.
“We sat down about three or four days ago and started talking about this with all the innings that the three top guys have amassed,” Girardi said. “We figured that there’s some concern there. And it’s over the long haul we’re talking about, you know, as we get into August and September. The immediate concern is not great. But as they continue to add to that inning total, we had some concerns. So we’re going to try to give each of them a little bit more of a blow.”
Harper, Gregorius remain out
A return still doesn’t seem imminent for right fielder Bryce Harper and shortstop Didi Gregorius, who remain on the injured list. Harper (sore wrist) has not played since May 22 and Gregorius (sore elbow) last played on May 12.
“There is progress. [Harper] is hitting. We like, for the most part, the direction that he’s going in,” Girardi said. “And Didi is hitting as well. Didi hit on the field early today; I think he was hitting some breaking balls. So we like the direction that he is going. So they’re both doing more and more every day.”
Girardi said Harper’s swelling has subsided, while Gregorius still has some inflammation.
“I think there’s a minor stiffness that he has to work through as we increase everything,” Girardi said of Gregorius. “I think the hitting is what we’re probably worried about the most. And I think when you worry is the swing-and-miss.”
Spencer Howard will start Saturday against Washington right-hander Joe Ross. Howard remains on a 75-to-80-pitch count, Girardi said. Howard threw 66 pitches in his last start. ... Matt Moore, on the injured list with a sore back, was pulled Thursday night from his rehab start in triple A after recording just five outs. He threw 59 pitches and Girardi said the left-hander is working to build his pitch count. ... J.T. Realmuto’s next home run will be the 100th of his career. When he hits it, it will be just the second time in Phillies history that three players hit their 100th homer in the same season; Rhys Hoskins and Brad Miller did so in May. In 1976, Mike Schmidt, Greg Luzinski, and “Downtown” Ollie Brown each hit their 100th career homer.