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Abel looks to bounce back

Mick Abel kept having his first start of the season pushed back last week when the team traveled to Rochester for what was supposed to be a six-game series but was cut to three by bad weather. Abel finally got to take the mound on Sunday and lasted just 1 2/3 innings of work, needing 60 pitches and just 31 of them were strikes.

Abel was activated a couple days into the season after some illness and minor stiffness slowed him in spring training. That combined with the delay when he was going to pitch last week likely contributed to the struggles he had in his first outing. It’s likely that the 22-year-old will start this week against Durham and his turn should come up on Friday night.

The Phillies have not had a lot of luck with young pitching prospects recently. Andrew Painter is unlikely to pitch this season after undergoing Tommy John surgery last year and Griff McGarry struggled through the 2023 season and is now being converted into a reliever with the IronPigs. With all of that, there is some pressure on Abel to produce and the Phillies are hoping that if they need another starting pitcher at some point this season they will be able to bring him to Philadelphia to fill that role.

Last season, Abel pitched to a 4.14 ERA in 22 starts with Reading and joined Lehigh Valley to make one start with the IronPigs against Worcester last September. In that start, Abel threw 4 2/3 innings, allowing two earned runs for a 3.86 earned run average.

JUST A THOUGHT… Rather than playing games in places like Rochester, Worcester, and St. Paul in late March and early April, why not have the International League schedule open in places like Norfolk, Charlotte, Gwinnett, Durham, Jacksonville, Memphis, Louisville? Granted, some of those cities are not balmy this time of the year, but if I’m sending you somewhere for six days to enjoy the outdoors, do you want a ticket to Norfolk or Buffalo? As an added bonus, it would save money on travel because most teams head north out of Florida where they have been for spring training. Yes, opening days up north would be delayed, but better for fans who could enjoy slightly warmer weather.

OUT WITH THE OLD, IN WITH THE NEW… Connor Brogdon was a guy considered capable of competing for the closer’s job in Philadelphia, but that lofty prediction wore off over the past few seasons. This spring he made the team thanks to an extended illness that sidelined Orion Kerkering and the opportunity did not go well for the 29-year-old right-hander who posted a 27.00 ERA in three outings with the Phillies and was designated for assignment and then traded to the Los Angeles Dodgers.

In return, the Phillies received a younger, left-hander named Benony Robles. The 23-year-old pitched at High-A Great Lakes for the Dodgers last season and went 4-2 with a 3.86 ERA. In five minor league seasons, Robles is 13-16 with a 4.67 ERA. Robles will likely be sent to High-A Jersey Shore.

WELCOME BACK… Rob Brantly comes back to town as a member of the Durham Bulls this week. The soon to be 35-year-old catcher and designated hitter has spent a lot of time at Coca-Cola Park in his career. He wore an IronPigs uniform in 2019 and has come to town as a member of the Louisville Bats, Charlotte Knights, Columbus Clippers, Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders, Buffalo Bisons, and Durham Bulls. As a visitor, Brantly has played 25 games at Coca-Cola Park and has hit .240, a far cry from his 2019 average of .314 when he was a member of the IronPigs.