Asher completes impressive turnaround year

Righty will join other young Phillies pitchers in rotation competition next spring

Asher completes impressive turnaround year

PHILADELPHIA -- If everybody returns healthy in February 2017, Alec Asher will be a part of a stable of impressive young Phillies arms. Along with Asher, Aaron Nola, Jerad Eickhoff, Vince Velasquez, Jake Thompson, Zach Eflin, Adam Morgan and Ben Lively will be among the team's promising pitchers competing for jobs in the rotation.

Figure a veteran or two to be in the mix, too.

Asher made his final start of the season Friday night in a 5-1 loss to the Mets at Citizens Bank Park. He allowed five hits and three runs and struck out four in six-plus innings. He went 2-1 with a 2.28 ERA in five starts.

His performance this month is a dramatic reversal from last season, when he went 0-6 with a 9.31 ERA in seven starts.

"I kind of did some self-evaluation and looked at some stuff and what I needed to do better," said Asher, who served an 80-game suspension this season for testing positive for a performance-enhancing drug. "There was definitely some stuff I needed to work on. And I tried to make that a priority coming into this year. I definitely feel like we're headed in the right direction."

Asher credited two things for his success: more confidence and throwing a two-seam fastball, which has been remarkably effective.

"I think the main thing was all mindset and confidence-wise, coming at it a different way," Asher said.

Nola, Eickhoff and Velasquez are locks for three rotation jobs next spring, if they are healthy. But Nola's health is far from certain. He has been on the disabled list since July because of a low-grade sprain of his UCL and a low-grade strain of his flexor pronator tendon in his right elbow. He received a platelet rich plasma (PRP) injection to attempt to heal the injury. He began to throw this week in Clearwater, Fla. The team is hopeful he will be ready by Spring Training.

Nola's scoreless start

But even if the Phillies acquire a veteran starter in the offseason, they should have at least one and possibly two jobs available.

"That's the thing we wanted to do, get enough good-looking young pitchers and try to develop them," Phillies manager Pete Mackanin said. "We have a stable of young pitchers, and it's going to be a great competition, better than last year. We won a lot of games in the first four months of the season because we had good starting pitching that gave us an opportunity to win games, keeping us in ballgames. I'm looking [forward] to the spring for that reason."

Asher will be in the mix. He retired the first 11 batters he faced Friday before allowing four consecutive singles with two outs in the fourth inning to score two runs and hand the Mets a 2-1 lead. He was pulled after allowing a leadoff homer to Jay Bruce in the seventh that made it 3-1.

"I think it's going to be a healthy competition," Asher said about next spring. "Just kind of like it was this year. We've got a lot of young talented pitchers."

The loss dropped the Phillies to 70-90, making it the first time they have lost 90 or more games in consecutive seasons since 1996-97. The Phillies have lost 89 or more games in four consecutive seasons for the first time since they did it 13 consecutive seasons from 1933-45.

Todd Zolecki has covered the Phillies since 2003, and for since 2009. Follow him on Twitter and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.