Ever since the Phillies signed Aaron Nola to a new, 7-year contract, in November, the Phillies have been saying that their rotation is set for 2024.

There’s Zack Wheeler, Nola, Ranger Suarez, Taijuan Walker, and Cristopher Sanchez. That’s who they are going to war with in 2024.

Despite that messaging, the Phillies made a major push to sign Yoshinobu Yamamoto before he landed with the Los Angeles Dodgers and the Phillies name continued to crop up surrounding interest in two Scott Boras clients, Blake Snell and Jordan Montgomery, who have yet to sign and remain in free agency.

Whether there is real interest there, or Boras is using the Phillies name because they’re a team with an ownership willing to spend money is debatable. But the fact that they’ve been linked to starting pitchers by many sources and haven’t really refuted it should tell you that while they are content with the rotation for now, they still might be willing to pivot if the timing, and terms of a potential deal with another pitcher, are right.

Still, that’s less likely than many fans would hope.

Not that the fans are disappointed with Sanchez being part of the rotation – after all, he was a lifesaver, in so many ways, for the Phillies in 2023. But there has been some grumbling about Walker. And it’s only started to be loud enough to hear in recent days as Walker still has not pitched in a game for the Phillies this spring.

That’s about to change.

To recap, he left camp early to fly home and deal with a personal issue. Then, upon his return, he had some knee soreness after a live batting practice session. He’s thrown a couple bullpens since but hasn’t made it into a game yet.

Walker told me this morning that he actually feels really good and that he’s trending toward getting out there, hopefully, against the Yankees, Monday.

The Phillies decided to push that up a couple days:

“I really just got to get up to five innings,” he said. “If I can make three starts, my next start after that would get me up to five innings and that’s all you really need to start the season. They usually ease you into it the first couple weeks of the season anyways.”

By throwing Saturday, he’ll be able to get in four starts before the regular season begins. He then wouldn’t see game action again until his first start, which likely wouldn’t be until the first week of April against Cincinnati.

It’s not an ideal schedule, but one that is still workable to be on schedule for the start of the season.

It’s the second spring where Walker has had an inconsistent schedule in March with the Phillies. In 2023 it was impacted by his participation in the World Baseball Classic.

“There’s still plenty of time,” Walker said. “I’ve been doing this a long time and I know what I need to do to get ready.”

And that’s fair, but it’s more than just building yourself up to be ready for the season. Spring Training is also a time to really test if the changes you made in your offseason throwing program have borne fruit.

However, only three starts is a very narrow window to do that fine-tuning.

Walker’s first inning issues were well-documented. He was getting torched because he lacked velocity early in the game. As a result, he tried to do things that often got him in trouble.

“I want to be more aggressive and pound the zone in the first inning and make it a quick inning,” Walker said. “The biggest issue was the walks. I walked too many people and that’s something I don’t normally do. Addressing those two things will make a difference. They are simple mental things that I can fix by telling myself, ‘Pound the zone. Pound the zone.'”

Walker said he was trying to be too cute with his pitches because “89-90 (MPH) is not going to cut it.”

“I tried to be too fine in some cases and that’s what led to deep counts and walks and stuff,” Walker said.

Walker insisted he’s confident that the velocity will be back for him to pump the zone because he’s healthier this spring than he was at any point last year.

He’s also changing his delivery to the point where he’s using more of his lower half, trying to gain power from his legs and not having to rely on just his arm.

“Once I have them both sync together, the velo should be back,” Walker said.

If it is, great. Nothing for the Phillies to worry about. But if it’s not… well, then they may not be as content with their rotation as they insist.