How an odd Phillies schedule impacts the pitching rotation

Aaron nola
PHILADELPHIA, PA – JULY 24: Philadelphia Phillies starting pitcher Aaron Nola (27) delivers a pitch during the fifth inning of the game between the Miami Marlins and Philadelphia Phillies on July 24, 2020 at Citizens Bank Park in Philadelphia, PA. (Photo by John Jones/Icon Sportswire)

The Phillies have experienced a weird and whacky schedule as of late to say the least. With rainouts and obscurely placed days off, the rotation is not in much of a normal rythym right now as they enter a weekend series at home against the Nationals.

What we saw from the Phillies last week

Last Thursday, the Phillies had a 12:10 p.m. getaway game in Miami. Spencer Howard started the game for the Phils, throwing 66 pitches over four innings of work. A getaway game typically signifies a longer trip ahead for the team, so where did the Phillies go next? Tampa. A one-hour flight or four-hour bus-ride away. Oh, and both the Phillies and the Rays had an off-day on Friday with the two-game series not actually beginning until Saturday.

That wonky off-day in and of itself is not much more than an odd blink in the system for the Phillies’ rotation, not until it is compiled with what was to come. Zack Wheeler and Zach Eflin pitched on Saturday and Sunday, respectively for the Phillies against the Rays before the team moved on to Cincinnati. Vince Velasquez and Aaron Nola pitched on Monday and Tuesday for the Phillies. Prior to its postponement, the Wednesday getaway game was slated to be started by Howard.

A closer look at the Phillies rotation against the Nationals

Now, after two consecutive days off, the team are set to return to action against the Nationals at home on Friday. Zack Wheeler, who will start on five full days of rest for the Phillies on Friday. He will go up against the Nationals’ ace of aces Max Scherzer.

On Saturday, Spencer Howard will get the nod for the Phillies as he goes up against Joe Ross. Howard owns a 3.86 ERA through two starts in the bigs, but has yet to throw more than 70 pitches in one appearance. The 24-year old will be pitching on eight ful days of rest following his start on Wednesday getting rained out.

Vince Velasquez will then hope to get things back on track on Sunday as he closes out the Phillies’ series against the Nationals. Vinny Velo only pitched three innings on Monday against the Reds, allowing six runs in the process. The starter owned a 2.30 ERA through six starts prior to the start. Velasquez too will pitch on five full days of rest.

Schedule Oddities

Wednesday and Thursday are the teams’ first two of seven off-days throughout the month of June. An oddly-spaced out schedule, the Phillies will have another day off following their series against the Nationals on Monday. After that, they will face the Braves at home for three games before having another day off on Friday, June 11th.

After closing out the homestand against the Yankees with a two-game set on Saturday and Sunday, June 12th and 13th, the Phils travel to the west coast for a series in Los Angeles. The three-game set in LA ends with another off-day on June 17th before the Phillies go to San Francisco for three games. They then close out the well-rested portion of the schedule with a two-game set against the Nationals with off-day both before and after.

That takes us to Friday, June 25th, which begins a completely different porition of the Phillies’ schedule. Due to two rainouts against the Mets and Reds, they will play 18 games in 17 days starting June 25th. A doubleheader against the Mets kicks off the series, with notable opponents including the Padres, Cubs, and Red Sox. The 18-game stretch will take the Phillies right into the All-Star Break.

How the Phillies Will Approach the Schedule

Such an odd schedule dichotomy is putting the Phillies in a difficult spot. Seven days off within a 23-day stretch gives the Phillies a chance to rest some of their arms. Zach Eflin appears to be getting some additional rest as his normally-scheduled start on Saturday now appears to be taking place next Wednesday.

The stretch also allows the Phillies to not rely on Spencer Howard much. The young starting pitcher is not ready for a full season’s workload and the Phillies are not shy in saying so. Expect Howard not to pitch following his Saturday start until Sunday, June 13th. Nola and Wheeler will, of course, still pitch on a consistent basis as the aces of the staff.

While the Phillies should utilize the additional rest days for their rotation while they have them, there is the looming threat at the end of the month. 18 games in 17 days will be a challenge for the Phillies. If they are to navigate that stretch properly, Velasquez will need to produce results while Howard will need to pitch deeper into games. Additionally, spot starts from Chase Anderson, Matt Moore, or Ranger Suarez will be essential.

The worst thing that could happen for the Phillies now is complacency. If the Phillies get too used to the additional days of rest now, they will be in for a rude awakening come early July. It will be up to manager Joe Girardi to keep the players in the right state of mind and to manage them properly throughout the next few weeks.

Photo by John Jones/Icon Sportswire