NEW YORK — A busy yet meaningless-to-the-standings final weekend in New York has forced the Phillies into a bit of a roster sleight of hand.
Behold, with one flick of Dave Dombrowski’s wand, how one roster spot becomes three pitchers in two days.
Dylan Covey was placed on the injured list with low back pain, retroactive to Thursday. Luis Ortiz was summoned to Citi Field, a fresh arm to tackle the minimum of 24 innings needed over 28 or so hours.
Ortiz tossed a scoreless eighth in Game 1, then was demoted for Michael Plassmeyer, who started Game 2 as the Mets swept both games, 4-3 and 11-4. Sunday’s season finale will likely heavily feature Nick Nelson, up from Triple-A for the first time this season. To select Plassmeyer’s contract to the 40-man roster, right-hander Erich Uelman was recalled and placed on the 60-day IL with a right flexor strain.
Got all that?
“We have to be a little smart about it,” Rob Thomson said. “Hopefully we get the length where we need it and where we expect it. If we do that, we’ll be fine. I want to make sure everyone is in play on Tuesday.”
With Friday washed out by the remnants of Tropical Storm Ophelia, the Phillies need innings. So while other starters have been limited this week for postseason freshness, Thomson tasked Taijuan Walker with going as long as he could in Game 1. Even a full workload would keep Walker available for Tuesday’s Wild Card series opener. He’d be on full rest by Thursday’s if-necessary Game 3.
Walker started shaky, allowing four runs in the first two innings. But he kept it there and managed to complete seven innings. That looked unlikely when he walked DJ Stewart to start the third and reached 47 pitches. He retired the next 12 hitters and didn’t allow another hit in setting down 15 of the final 16 Mets he saw.
“Those last four innings felt really good,” Walker said. “It really felt like my body and my mechanics were in sync.”
Walker allowed four hits, walked four, uncorked two wild pitches and hit a batter, losing an 84-mph cutter that caught Pete Alonso in the helmet. Walker apologized immediately to his former teammate.
The start took Walker to 172.2 innings this year, topping his career high from 2015 with Seattle.
Plassmeyer knows the mop-up territory. Last year, he pitched Game 162 in Houston, digging deep for 90 pitches and six innings to keep the bullpen fresh for the Wild Card series in St. Louis. Thomson did not forget that valuable service this spring when the lefty was in the conversation for the fifth starter’s job.
Plassmeyer struggled in spring, was released in June but signed a minor-league deal to return. He missed June and July with an injury. But since a rehab stint, he’s allowed 16 hits, four runs and struck out 27 in 23.2 innings (1.52 ERA) with Lehigh Valley. He hasn’t allowed more than one run in any outing.
He was beaten up by Mets pitching Saturday, allowing eight hits and 10 runs (nine earned), with two home runs from Francisco Alvarez, including a third-inning grand slam.
Injury and circumstance kept Nelson out of the bigs in in 2023. A hamstring strain meant he didn’t pitch in spring. He went on a rehab assignment in April but was back on the IL in May. The emergence of Cristopher Sanchez and Covey left no opening for him. Since June, he’s 7-3 with a 4.35 ERA in 20 Triple-A starts, logging 97.1 innings.
Thomson said Matt Strahm would open the game, but Nelson would be called on for the bulk of the innings.
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Trea Turner left Game 2 in the bottom of the seventh after being hit by a pitch in the top half of the inning. It was listed by the team as a left elbow contusion. Thomson said he won’t play Sunday, though he could.
Turner took an 86.6 mph splitter to the arm from Reed Garrett in the seventh.
“He probably won’t play tomorrow, out of precaution,” Thomson said. “But he’s going to be fine. Just caught a little bit of his triceps.”
“I think he got me in kind of a weird spot,” Turner said. “I had a little bit of a dead arm. Felt like I couldn’t really move it very well but I feel better after getting some treatment. Just going to be a little sore but I should be good.”
When asked if he’ll be ready for Tuesday, Turner went with an emphatic: “Yeah, yeah, I’ll be fine.”
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Covey’s back injury has lingered for a while. The move is an attempt to get the righty back for a possible NLCS, his ability to provide length more valuable in a long series. He was a question mark to make the Wild Card roster.
“It hasn’t really kept him from pitching, but we want to knock it out,” Thomson said. “This keeps him available for the CS if we get there. It gives us the flexibility to do what we’re doing.”
Claimed off waivers from the Dodgers on May 20, Covey struggled in his first month but has settled in nicely. He has a 1.64 ERA over his last 18 games and earned his first hold Wednesday against Pittsburgh, his eighth straight scoreless outing.
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NOTES >> The other move Saturday brought Weston Wilson back to the bigs. Rodolfo Castro was optioned to the spring training complex. “We want to get a look at him, plus it really helps us the next two days, with the doubleheader today and making sure that we can get some of the guys out of the game early tomorrow,” Thomson said on Wilson. Since the minor league season is over, Castro’s demotion doesn’t not compromise the 2024 option year the Phillies kept him on the roster for, him playing 14 times in two months. … On whom the Phillies could play in the Wild Card series, which with two days left remains a three-way race, Thomson is following only slightly more closely than you at home. “I’ve been watching it but not really many conversations about it,” he said. “I think we’re pretty much prepared for anybody that we play.”