PHILADELPHIA -- Zack Wheeler left Citizens Bank Park on Sunday night still planning to make his Phillies’ debut Saturday against Miami.
Fatherhood could change that, of course.
Wheeler threw 86 pitches over 4 1/3 innings in a 4-1 exhibition loss to the Orioles at Citizens Bank Park. He allowed four hits, two runs and one walk, striking out four. It was Wheeler’s final tune-up before the regular season, although his wife Dominique is due with their first child on Saturday. If he is unable to pitch, one option to take his place is Vince Velasquez. Velasquez is scheduled to pitch in Monday night’s exhibition against the Yankees at Yankee Stadium, and he could take that spot on normal rest. Velasquez entered camp competing with Nick Pivetta for a job in the rotation. Did he win it? There has been no announcement, but he is on schedule to start Sunday’s series finale against the Marlins.
Phillies right-hander Jake Arrieta is scheduled to pitch Wednesday in a scrimmage, which means his first turn in the rotation would not come until July 27 against the Yankees. Right-hander Zach Eflin is scheduled to pitch in Thursday’s simulated game. If he is deemed ready to pitch after missing time because of lower back spasms, he could start July 28 against the Yankees.
“We have a lot of things that we can do, if we have to,” said Phillies manager Joe Girardi. “We’re just going to play with the rotation maybe a little bit. Stay tuned.”
Before the teams played an unofficial top of the 10th, in which the Orioles added a fifth run, Wheeler allowed a home run to Pedro Severino in the second inning and a run in the fourth before leaving the game in the fifth.
“I think his arm strength is good,” Girardi said. “His breaking ball wasn’t as sharp tonight, but I thought he battled through it. I think I said from the beginning, my concern [with pitchers] would be with sharpness with so few outings. But I’m not too worried about it. He was excellent in his last start. I’m going to think more about his last one than this one.”
The Phillies got nothing going against Orioles right-hander Thomas Eshelman, whom Philadelphia originally acquired in December 2015 via the Ken Giles trade with Houston before trading him to Baltimore last June for international bonus pool money. They scattered just eight hits overall.