When the Phillies signed Spencer Turnbull to a one-year, $2 million contract on Valentine’s Day, they weren’t expecting anyone to be struck by one of Cupid’s arrows.

But time has made the heart grow fonder when it comes to Turnbull, and his pitching has had a lot to do with it. Which is why Phillies fans are seemingly unsettled at the idea of taking him out of the rotation and turning him into a long man in the bullpen – a role he has never had in his career – to make room for the inconsistent Taijuan Walker, who is expected to be taken off the injured list and make his season debut on Sunday in San Diego.

And to be honest, I tend to agree with the fans on this one.

There are a lot of reasons the Phillies are likely to move Turnbull to the pen – 54 million of them in terms of getting Walker back into the rotation – as that’s how much he’s still owed on his 4-year, $72 million contract he signed before last season, a contract that many consider an albatross hanging around the neck of the Phillies currently:

There’s also the fact that Turnbull has not pitched a lot in recent seasons.

He threw 148 1/3 innings in 2019 and then was limited by the pandemic in 2020 to 56 2/3 innings. In 2021, he got off to a great start, and even threw a no-hitter for the Detroit Tigers, only to require Tommy John surgery after making just nine starts and throwing 50 innings.

He missed the entire 2022 season recovering from that injury and then made just seven starts, throwing 31 innings for the Tigers a season ago, dealing with more arm injuries. He made an additional eight starts that spanned 26 innings in the minors last season for a grand total of 57 innings.

So, yeah, it’s been a minute since he threw a lot of innings and with his injury history, the Phillies want to be careful not to overuse him, especially if a need could arise for him to start again later this season.

Manager Rob Thomson has said repeatedly that they don’t want him to throw more than 100 innings – or thereabouts – this season as he builds back up to where he was five years ago.

And it’s hard to argue with the Phillies approach to their pitchers. With the exception of still-a-teenager-at-the-time, Andrew Painter last year at Spring Training, the Phillies have mostly avoided major injuries to their pitchers since Caleb Cotham arrived as pitching coach and the training staff was bolstered by trainers who believe in individualized approaches and have a strong background in understanding biomechanics.

Meanwhile, all across baseball, pitchers are dropping like mosquitos getting too close to the intoxicating blue light of the bug zapper.

So, I get it.

But I also get this – the Phillies are all-in this season. Every win matters. April is important because they won’t have the luxury of so many home games and so many games against bad teams at the end of the season that they had a year ago.

And staying in the Division race is important. Put pressure on the Braves. See how they respond when they don’t have a cakewalk to the division crown. Maybe they won’t succumb, and maybe the Phillies will end up being a wild card team… again. But you don’t know unless you make that push.

And right now Turnbull helps you make that push – more than Walker, and probably more than Cristopher Sanchez as well. And he knows it:

Does that mean he will sustain this? Maybe not. And there will come a time where he’ll hit a wall and need a blow. Fine. Then you can move him to the bullpen.

But to think you can just take a guy out of a flow and routine that he’s used to and comfortable with and just ask him to change that and still produce at the same level is a no-brainer, it’s not.

There’s no guarantee that switching him to the long man in the pen will yield the same results you are getting right now. Nor is there any guarantee that the guy coming into the rotation will match Turnbull’s production.

The Phillies have something good going here, and they’re just going to take it out of the mix – at least temporarily – and risk killing off the momentum that has been built from throwing every fifth day.

Meanwhile Walker threw 180 pitches in his rehab starts in the minors. Those minor league hitters swung and missed at four of those pitches.

Walker’s first inning troubles and low velocity were a storyline in 2o23 and one of the reason’s he was the “break glass in case of emergency” pitcher in the playoffs.

Things weren’t any better during a stop-and-start spring training that were interrupted by a family issue at home, a balky knee, and shoulder stiffness.

And now the Phillies are going to trot him out there Sunday to see what he looks like against a good San Diego lineup. It’s a good bet that Turnbull will be on call to piggyback if things go sideways for Walker.

The pressure is on him to perform because Turnbull has put his stake in the ground that he belongs in this rotation, too.

To their credit, the Phillies have not said officially that they are moving Turnbull out of the rotation. They are probably going to wait and see how Walker’s outing goes on Sunday first before they do, but Turnbull has a 1.33 ERA (second-best in the N.L.) and a 0.852 WHIP. The guy has done everything the Phillies could have hoped over five April starts – and he will get more, that much is certain:

But why wait to find out when? Just keep him there until there are signs of it falling apart. If you want to win this thing now, these are the tough decisions you have to make. They know that, and they feel like moving Turnbull out of the rotation for Walker is the right way to make a difficult decision.

We’ll find out if they are right. My fear is, they aren’t.