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Turnbull to make first relief appearance for Phillies Tuesday night

Turnbull to make first relief appearance for Phillies Tuesday night originally appeared on NBC Sports Philadelphia

Spencer Turnbull will make his first appearance out of the Phillies' bullpen Tuesday night in their series opener against the visiting Toronto Blue Jays.

Rob Thomson wouldn't divulge when Turnbull will be used, only that he'll enter the game at some point even if starting pitcher Cristopher Sanchez is cruising.

"We've got a plan," the manager said.

Turnbull has a 1.67 ERA and 0.84 WHIP in six starts. The Phillies have gone 5-1. But with Taijuan Walker healthy (and earning $18 million per year), the Phils have a filled rotation. They considered the idea of using a six-man staff, but it would give their starters too much time off at certain points of the season and their ace, Zack Wheeler, has been vocal about not wanting a fifth day of rest each turn.

On any list of potential problems, this is a good one to have.

"It's great, we've got a lot of depth," Thomson said. "Knock on wood, we're sitting in a pretty good spot, just got to keep them healthy."

Sanchez' rotation spot was solidified entering the season after his excellent second half in 2023. He struck out 10 Rockies three weeks ago in his fourth start but has been shaky in two outings since, allowing nine runs (five earned) and 16 baserunners in eight innings.

Last Monday in Anaheim, Sanchez did not have the feel for his bread-and-butter changeup and stayed away from it more than usual. After the game, Thomson said that he wants Sanchez to keep throwing it even when it's not sharp early. It's his best weapon, after all.

The likeliest scenario with Turnbull at this juncture is piggybacking with Sanchez every fifth day. That could mean two innings some nights, three innings some nights, more when the situation calls for it. The Phillies could also alternate Turnbull and Sanchez at times, starting Turnbull and having Sanchez piggyback him, the inverse of Tuesday's plan.

"If we were to piggyback, he'd be pitching every fifth day," Thomson said of Turnbull. "That doesn't necessarily mean we're going to do a piggyback, but if we did, that's what he'd do.

"Other than that, it just depends on how much (he pitches). He's never gone back-to-back, so if he pitches an inning, he'd have to have a day off. If he pitched two, he'd probably have two days off, that type of thing. Three innings or more, probably four days off."

Lineup notes

Alec Bohm was out of Tuesday's lineup a day after his 18-game hitting streak was snapped. He raised his batting average from .232 to .360 during the streak.

"He's fine," Thomson said. "Just a day off. Had that long streak and he's been grinding at it pretty good."

J.T. Realmuto also sat, and Trea Turner is out approximately six weeks with a hamstring injury, so the Phillies were down their top three right-handed bats.

Whit Merrifield moved up to the two-hole sans Realmuto and Nick Castellanos hit cleanup.

Merrifield is 10-for-24 over his last seven games with two doubles, two homers and four RBI.

Castellanos has a .375 on-base percenrage over his last eight games, reaching base multiple times in four of them.

"Yesterday, I thought his at-bats were really good," Thomson said. "He hit a ball hard the day before. I think his at-bats are better. He didn't chase at all yesterday, that was good."

Castellanos enters the night hitting .197, the highest his batting average has been since the fourth game of the season. Anything better than a 1-for-4 night would push him back above the Mendoza line.