Phillies move to 5-man rotation, Sanchez holds onto his spot

Phillies move to 5-man rotation, Sanchez holds onto his spot originally appeared on NBC Sports Philadelphia

ST. LOUIS — The Phillies are moving back to a five-man rotation for their next cycle, shifting Michael Lorenzen to the bullpen.

Cristopher Sanchez will start Tuesday in Atlanta and Lorenzen will enter behind him. Sanchez struck out a career-high 10 Braves over 7⅓ innings on Wednesday to solidify his spot in the rotation, but his remaining starts could be shorter.

"He might be a four- or five-inning guy depending on what happens because we're really watching his innings still," manager Rob Thomson said Saturday afternoon at Busch Stadium.

"It depends on how it looks. The way he looked the other day, it didn't look like September to me for that kid. Velocity was good, command was great, the secondary pitches were great, so it doesn't look like he's slowing down. We'll just have to watch him, that's all."

Sanchez has pitched 137 innings this season, 40 more than his prior career-high. For this first turn through the five-man rotation, Lorenzen will piggyback him. After that, the Phillies will reassess and Lorenzen could shift to a more traditional bullpen role similar to the one filled by Zach Eflin last September.

"The next time they come up (after the Braves) is against the Mets," Thomson said. "We'll figure that one out when we get there. I think this time out, we sort of try to get as much as we can out of the two of them.

"With Lorenzen, if we have that piggyback game, it kind of resets your bullpen after that day. Hopefully, they give you the whole game or the bulk of the game so it resets your bullpen. We've been running with one less bullpen arm than the rest of teams for a while now. It might help us out there, too."

Taijuan Walker starts Sunday's series finale for the Phillies in St. Louis, then Zack Wheeler pitches Game 1 in Atlanta Monday night. Tuesday is the piggyback day, and Aaron Nola will start the series finale Wednesday.

A free agent after the World Series, Lorenzen has had a career year and pitched a no-hitter in his second start as a Phillie. His first two outings after the trade deadline were terrific — 17 innings, two runs, 11 baserunners. He's struggled ever since, allowing 26 runs in 26 innings over five starts with an opponents' batting line of .333/.393/.604.

For most of the season, Lorenzen got ahead in counts, worked quickly and induced soft contact. It hasn't been the case since that 124-pitch effort on August 9.

Lorenzen pitched exclusively in relief from 2016-21 and had a 3.39 ERA in the first four of those six seasons. The last year he spent as a reliever, his fastball averaged 97 mph compared to 94.5 this season as a starter.

"He's all on board," Thomson said. "As I said to him, I said I consider you a starter, and moving forward, you're going to be a starter. He's really pitched well all year. After the no-hitter, he's kind of come back a little bit, but I would trust him as a starter no matter where he was. He gets it."