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Irvin set to start Phils spring opener

Cole Irvin
Left-hander Cole Irvin gets the ball to start the Phillies spring opener against the Tampa Bay Rays in St. Petersburg, Florida. (Photo by Cheryl Pursell)

When you think about a potential Phillies starting rotation for 2019, don’t forget the name Cole Irvin. The left-hander could very well have pitched in the majors last season, but was victim of a roster spot crunch that prevented him from debuting with the Phillies. Because both Enyel De Los Santos and Ranger Suarez were on the 40-man roster and Irvin wasn’t, they were promoted ahead of the other two pitchers. Irvin also didn’t need to be protected from the Rule 5 Draft in the winter, so there was no reason for the Phillies to add him to the 40-man roster. With that in mind, he stayed behind and pitched for Lehigh Valley while De Los Santos and Suarez pitched for the Phillies.

Irvin will start the spring training opener for the Phillies when they take to the field in Tampa Bay this afternoon. It’s likely that it won’t be the only outing he’ll get with the Phillies this spring. The Phillies will take a look at Irvin and gauge how he may help them during the season. His odds of earning a rotation spot out of spring training aren’t good, but the odds of him joining the team at some point during the season are pretty good. Teams don’t make it through a season with just five starters and while De Los Santos and Suarez will also be in the mix, Irvin will likely get a shot at making his MLB debut this season. The 25-year old left-hander will have to be protected from the Rule 5 Draft this winter, so that reason for not adding him to the 40-man roster has disappeared.

The Phillies took Irvin in the fifth round of the 2016 Draft, making it the third time that he was drafted. The Blue Jays drafted him in the 25th round in 2012 when he graduated from high school, but he never signed. In 2015, Irvin fell to the 32nd round and was drafted by the Pittsburgh Pirates. He never signed with either team and the Phillies grabbed him the following year. After pitching for Williamsport in 2016, the Phillies skipped him over Lakewood and he pitched at both Clearwater and Reading in 2017 with a combined mark of 9-9 and a 3.39 ERA. Last season, he watched rotation mates at Lehigh Valley move up to Philadelphia while he made 25 starts – and one relief appearance – with the IronPigs and pitched to a 14-4 record, compiling an ERA of 2.57 at Triple-A, good enough numbers to make him the International League Pitcher of the Year.

Irvin doesn’t get the press that some of the other Phillies pitching prospects get, mainly because he’s not a real hard thrower; that’s not to say that getting up to the mid-90s isn’t good enough. He’s not a guy that looks to open eyes with velocity or a big breaking ball, but simply just looks to get outs. His success lies in his command. Last season, he struck out 131 hitters in 161 1/3 innings of work, while walking just 35 batters.

As usual, the Phillies will go with five young prospects to open the spring season. After Irvin on Friday, De Los Santos will pitch Saturday against Pittsburgh, with Drew Anderson and JoJo Romero pitching against Detroit in the home-and-home series. On Tuesday, Suarez gets the start against the Yankees.

The lineup for the spring opener against the Rays today stands like this:

Roman Quinn (CF)
Scott Kingery (SS)
Maikel Franco (3B)
Nick Williams (LF)
Andrew Knapp (C)
Shane Robinson (RF)
Andrew Romine (2B)
Dylan Cozens (DH)
Austin Listi (1B)

More of the Phillies regulars are expected to be in the lineup Saturday afternoon when the Phillies play their first home game of spring training against the Pittsburgh Pirates.

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