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It's a well-known story by now. Bailey Falter was supposed to fill in as the Philadelphia Phillies' fifth starter late in 2021, but a bout of COVID-19 forced him into a Marriot hotel room for 12 days.

There he lost weight, strength, and all the stamina he had built up in the past few months, costing him a spot in the Phillies' rotation.

More recently, Falter was placed in the Phillies bullpen as a long reliever for the beginning of the regular season. In 7.1 innings pitching this season, he has a 4.91 ERA, but a 6.61 FIP.

Following the Phillies win over the Colorado Rockies on April 25, Falter was demoted to Triple-A Lehigh Valley to continue building-up to a starting role. Damon Jones was recalled in his place.

Falter may be the better option at the Major League level right now, but the Phillies may see his work starting for Lehigh Valley as more beneficial long-term.

Given the shortened spring training, it seems unavoidable that one or more of the Phillies current starting five will suffer some injury this year. Though that five-man rotation is very strong, the rotation depth is particularly weak.

Currently in the bullpen, Cristopher Sánchez is probably the only legitimate starting option. Though it seems the Phillies like his work out of the bullpen, they will probably keep him there if there is a dearth of big league starters.

The Phillies minor league options are thin as well. 

Last year at the trade deadline, the Phillies moved a package headlined by Spencer Howard for Hans Crouse, Kyle Gibson, and Ian Kennedy. Crouse looked like he would be the Phillies' sixth starter going into Opening Day, but he's been a major disappointment at Triple-A in three starts this year.

Crouse's ERA over 7.1 innings is 11.05, and he's allowed two home runs and a walk-rate of nearly 5.0. He won't be ready to see major league action for some time.

Francisco Morales was another highly touted Phillies starting prospect as recently as 2021, but his uninspiring work last year forced a move to bullpen where he's excelled in 2022.

Throughout the entire upper minors, in Reading and Lehigh Valley, starting pitching has been uninspiring this year. The only standout has been Colton Eastman who's made four starts for a 3.52 ERA. 

But he's not on the Phillies' top 30 prospects list and he's never been viewed particularly highly as a prospect. At age 25, his major league future probably never sees time on a contending team.

So it looks like Falter is really the Phillies' only option at the present. In Triple-A during 2021, he pitched 30.2 innings for a 1.76 ERA. Should Falter repeat those numbers, it will hopefully inspire some confidence in the young lefty and elevate him from a prime candidate for the sixth starter role, to the prime candidate for the sixth starter role.

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