Phil Klein probably didn’t even bring a toothbrush from Lehigh Valley, as the Phillies sent him back to Triple A mere seconds after his first major league start of 2016, and first ever as a Phillie. He was given one evening to live out his wildest dreams - starting a late season game for a fourth place team with no offense against a division leader - tipped his cap, and disappeared into the night.
But, that still leaves the Phillies with their current problem. There isn’t going to be a magical Phil Klein to serve as a short term solution every week in the wake of Aaron Nola’s elbow strain. And that’s important to note, because it’s not sounding likely that Nola comes back this season, according to softball champion and age defier Matt Breen:
“If we shut him down for two or three weeks, by the time he builds himself back up, you’re in the middle of September,” manager Pete Mackanin said. “So that very well might be the case. He might be shut down for the season. That will be determined after his two weeks on the disabled list.”
Since June, Nola’s struggles have been easily visible in his game logs, as he at one point hit a rough patch where he scrambled to get out of the fourth inning in four consecutive starts (and failed). Some have brought up his wonky delivery (Nola said he was double jointed), some have pointed to the elbow being an issue for longer than anybody admitted, but at this point, it doesn’t matter. A 23-year-old is injured in August of a rebuilding year; let’s just make sure the guy’s arm can still do basic arm things in the future.
In the mean time, there will need to be a new arm slotted into the rotation for these last few weeks, and the aforementioned Klein has already faded into the corn. The clear answer here is Jake Thompson, who has thrown the most innings of any IronPig (129.2), has the lowest ERA among the starters at 2.50, leads the team in strikeouts (87), and has only given up 10 home runs. He’s got a 1.095 WHIP—look, we all love and want to see Jake Thompson. I don’t have to sell you on him. And it seems like he’s coming whether I fill this page with this stats or not.
Sounding like he was congratulating a middle schooler who got a wrong answer in a geography bee, Pete Mackanin said that an assumption of Thompson getting promoted was a “good, solid guess.”
People have been itching to see the Texas-born 22-year-old all season, among other prospects, and when Matt Klentak said he’d let us open one present on the Christmas Eve that is the 2016 season, a lot of guesses were that it would be Thompson wearing the bow on his head. We’re also itching to see Nick Williams steal Jimmy Paredes’ job and J.P. Crawford field grounders with his glove on his head. We’re really just very itchy, all the time.
So it seems one wish may come true, but like a genie in a Twilight Zone episode, the promotion will come with a cost. Let us remember Nola’s 2016 at its beginning, when he was fanning hitters with epic command and burrowing seven innings into every start like it was nothing. He’ll have the winter to heal, and we’ll have memories of having seen both him and Thompson throw in red pinstripes this season.
Too optimistic for you? Okay, fine. Or, something terrible will happen. That better?