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Phillies Notebook: Taijuan Walker not ready to rock with blister on his finger

PHILADELPHIA — After Taijuan Walker blew up early and gave up three home runs to the Arizona Diamondbacks in what became a 5-4 Phillies loss Friday night, manager Rob Thomson said he would likely talk to Walker about his health. Asked afterward if he planned to tell the manager that he was indeed healthy, Walker said, “I think so, yeah. That’ll probably be my answer.”

Funny how things can change with a little overnight perspective.

Thomson met the media again early Saturday afternoon and declared Walker perhaps isn’t completely healthy after all. The issue? The manager described how Walker has “this little hot spot” on the index finger of his throwing hand, indicating it could be a burgeoning blister that’s blistered the team’s troubled fifth starter’s formerly effective splitter pitch.

Walker gave up five hits and four earned runs in four innings Friday night. His splitter wasn’t dropping, and manager Rob Thomson is “absolutely” certain the ailing finger made it impossible to properly grip the ball for the pitch.

“I think it’s probably been going on for a while,” Thomson said. “And he’s not going to admit anything because he’s a competitor. He doesn’t want to tell his opponents that he’s got a problem with his splitter.”

So his manager did.

“We’re going to try to work through that,” Thomson said. But the manager would not commit to Walker making his next scheduled start in Detroit Wednesday, nor did he rule out another visit to the Injured List for him.

Walker, not yet halfway through a four-year, $72 million contract, did say after the loss Friday that his “go-to” splitter was giving him problems.

“The problem right now is it’s not there,” he said. “The last two years I’ve been throwing it so much. It’s my bread-and-butter, my go-to pitch … in tough sitautions (to get) ground balls and swings and misses and stuff. Right now, it’s just not there and obviously I’m busting my butt to do what I can to find it.”

Walker said not being able to command his splitter has impacted his velocity, which hovered anywhere from slim to none at times Friday.

“The velocity, if I’m locating my fastball it’s good. But if the splitter isn’t there I feel like my velocity isn’t,” he said. “It plays that big a part of it, because I’m throwing my splitters 38 percent of the time or so. But it’s frustrating. I feel like I have the same grip, I feel like I’m doing the same thing. It might be just a little tweak (it needs).”

• • •

Starter Zack Wheeler gave up just two hits and one earned run while striking out eight in seven innings Saturday, earning the win in a 12-1 Phillies romp.

It’s the fifth time Wheeler’s allowed one or fewer runs this season, tied for the most in MLB. A far cry from his last start in Baltimore, when he gave up a career-worst eight earned runs.

But the fifth inning was an adventure for Wheeler, now 9-4. Wheeler sailed into the frame with a perfect game. Then he lost the perfect bid with a HBP of Christian Walker, lost the no-hitter giving up a safety to Jake McCarthy and lost the shutout surrendering an RBI-single to Tucker Barnhart.

Luckily the run only drew the D-Backs to within 5-1.

“You’ve got to throw it in on Walker,” Wheeler said. “He likes the ball in and he likes fastballs. I tried to get it in and HBP. The next guy McCarthy, the ball was high and out of the zone. He just did a nice job of hitting it. You try to limit the damage and not throw too many pitches the entire time.”

The Phillies are 22-1 when a starting pitcher throws at least seven frames.

• • •

The strange game featured starting catcher Tucker Barnhart throwing the eighth inning in relief for the Diamondbacks. Bryce Harper smacked a single and David Dahl drilled a two-run homer off Carroll, who was throwing in the low 40 mph range.

Dahl hit a 41 mph slider over the fence.

Harper went 4-for-5 on the day with his 18th home run and three RBIs.

Alex Bohm drilled his eighth homer.

• • •

NOTES >> Phillies shortstop Edmundo Sosa exited in the sixth inning with a left elbow contusion after being hit by a Scott McGough pitch and is day to day. X-rays were negative. … Tai Walker needs 13 strikeouts for 1,000. … Phillies are 36-12 this season when they score first, as they did Saturday. … Normally the designated hitter, Kyle Schwarber played in left field for the Phillies, going 2-for-3 with a pair of doubles, a walk, three runs scored and an RBI. He also was hit by a pitch to lead off the game. “He’s been great,” Thomson said. “He’s getting on base, and he’s been swinging the bat well and been hitting left-handed pitching, too.” … It was 97 degrees at the 4:05 p.m. first pitch. … Series wraps up Sunday morning at 11:30 with Slade Cecconi (2-5, 5.90 ERA) opposing Cristopher Sanchez (4-3, 2.91). That game is televised only on Roku.


Source: Berkshire mont

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