Kinkead: here’s the Sunday update:

“The Phillies have placed right-handed pitcher Taijuan Walker on the 15-day injured list (retroactive to June 22) with right index finger inflammation. To fill his spot on the 26-man roster, right-handed pitcher Michael Mercado was recalled from triple-A Lehigh Valley. Mercado will wear No. 63.”


When the Phillies called up Cristopher Sanchez to fill a gaping hole in the rotation in June of 2023, it was one of those cross-your-fingers-and-hope moves to get them through some starts until the trade deadline.

There’s not a person in the organization who would have projected that they would be locking him up to a long-term contract as a fixture in the rotation.

That’s what happened Saturday, as the Phillies announced an extension for Sanchez that begins next season and will keep him under contract through 2028 with club options for 2029 and 2030.

Matt Gelb of The Athletic reported that the contract guarantees Sanchez $22.5 million. The fifth-year club option would be for $14 million and the sixth-year club option would be for $15 million.

It’s a heck of a journey for a pitcher who was a bit of a late bloomer, and one who has surprised even his bosses.

“I’d be lying if I said I did,” said manager Rob Thomson referring to the expectation that Sanchez would become one of the better pitchers in the sport in the span of a year. “His journey has been so remarkable from the first time I saw him throw. He was at 98-99 and all over the place. He couldn’t throw strikes. To be where he is now – I wouldn’t be able to even envision that. … He’s gone from being the super power guy with no command to still a power guy with command and ‘stuff.’ It’s really remarkable.”

In 14 starts this season, Sanchez, 27, is 4-3 with a 2.91 ERA. He’s allowed just one home run in 77 1/3 innings pitched – the best rate in baseball.

“As much as we like Cristopher, I wouldn’t be telling you the truth if I was telling you that last year at this time that we’d be sitting here and he’d have enjoyed the success that he has over the past year,” said Phillies president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski. “We felt that he would be in our rotation this year … but he has just continued to grow.

“Everybody felt that the growth would only continue to go. In addition to that, the work ethic aspect of it is just as important. You don’t want to have anybody – Cristopher or anyone – sign a long-term contract and rest on their laurels. That’s not him. He just wants to continue to get better and better and better and be one of the best pitchers in Major League Baseball.”

Thomson went as far to say that his stuff grades out as high as any other pitcher on the team, and that there is still a potential to be even better.

“The changeup is the best on the team,” Thomson said. “You can rival that with any of our pitchers’ best pitch and it’s probably as good as anybody else’s best pitch.

“I think (his production) can (get even better). We’re seeing the velocity jump this year. The slider keeps getting better. The changeup, I don’t know if it can get any better, maybe a little more consistent. … It’s hard to say where he’s going to end up.”

While one member of the rotation is ascending, another, is not.

Taijuan Walker, who had another rough outing on Friday, may have to miss his next start.

Despite saying he was healthy Friday night, during a meeting Saturday morning with Thomson, Walker said he has an issue with the index finger on his throwing hand, which is impacting his ability to throw his splitter effectively.

“He’s got a little hot spot on his finger, so we have to try and work through that,” Thomson said. “I think it’s been probably going on for a while and he’s not going to admit to anything because he’s a competitor.”

Walker previously dealt with a blister on that finger. Thomson said it’s similar.

Asked if Walker would be put on the I.L. as a result, Thomson said the team doesn’t know yet, and would probably know more Sunday.

As a result, Spencer Turnbull, who pitched in relief of Walker, throwing three scoreless innings for the second straight appearance, could fill his spot in the rotation, which next comes up Wednesday against Detroit, the team Turnbull spent the entirety of his career with before signing with the Phillies.