With Hellickson Staying, Thompson Surging, Phils Consider 6-man Rotation

The Phillies hung onto their only starting pitcher not in his first full season at the Major League level when they decided they didn’t find a good enough offer to unload Jeremy Hellickson by Monday’s 4 p.m. non-waiver trade deadline.

They decided the value of having the veteran arm in their rotation was more than what other teams were willing to pay for him.

What does that mean for the status of pitching prospect Jake Thompson, who’s dominating at Lehigh Valley?

For starters, Phillies general manager Matt Klentak isn’t rushing to get Thompson - or other prospects like Nick Williams and J.P. Crawford - to the big leagues.

Klentak said Monday in a conference call with the reporters that he expects at least one of his top prospects to get to Philadelphia by season’s end.

And on Tuesday, when he sat in the dugout at Citizens Bank Park before the club’s 13-8 win over San Francisco, he reiterated the same patient approach.

“I think it’s important that when players are ready to come up here that they come up here and do well,” Klentak said. “When those players have proven their development at the Triple-A level is complete, we will be glad to make room for them here and get them the reps they need at the big league level. 

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The Phillies are 8.5 games out of a wildcard playoff spot and don’t appear to be making a run at the playoffs. The trio of prospects fans are clamoring to see, however, are in the heat of a playoff race in Allentown.

“They’re trying to make the playoffs and playing meaningful baseball at the Triple-A level,” Klentak said. “Playing important games, I don’t care what level it is – that’s an important developmental step. Right now we’re happy with where those guys are, we’re happy with the way that they’re playing and we’ll see them here soon enough. I’m sure of that.”

How soon remains to be seen.

With how young the pitching staff is at the Major League level, it’s possible Thompson, owner of a 1.21 ERA in his last 11 starts, is the first to arrive when the Phillies decide to limit the innings of their young arms.

Vince Velasquez is nearing his innings cap, Aaron Nola has struggled lately, Jerad Eickhoff is on pace to pitch 200 innings and Zach Eflin got hit around for the second time in a row Tuesday night. The easiest way to limit those innings and give the staff extra rest would be to go to a six-man pitching rotation, something the Phillies used at the end of last season.

“We’re open minded to anything,” Klentak said. “The health of our pitchers and making sure we do the right thing developmentally for our young pitchers is definitely important. If at some point we felt a six-man rotation made sense we would consider it. If we felt like skipping a start for a certain pitcher made sense, as we’ve done, we’d consider that and similarly if we feel that shutting a pitcher down before the end of the regular season makes sense, we’ll consider that too. So we’re open to any of those ideas.”

“It's a possibility,” manager Pete Mackanin said Tuesday. “We haven't really discussed it. Seriously, I mentioned the other day I don't get involved in all these trades. I don't really get involved much in who we're going to call up and when. I leave that up to them. That being said, I don't worry about it. But if we have a discussion about it, we'll all put our two cents worth in. I don't know if I'm crazy about the idea or not.”

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