Philadelphia Phillies: Ranger Suarez should crack the rotation

(Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)
(Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images) /

With another nice showing for the Philadelphia Phillies on Saturday, left-hander Ranger Suarez is one step closer to locking down the team’s fifth starter slot.

He’s going to have to keep earning it, but Ranger Suarez is looking more and more like the right choice at the back end of the rotation for the Philadelphia Phillies.

Suarez pitched three effective innings in Saturday’s split-squad spring training victory over the Boston Red Sox. And although he allowed a pair of runs, he looked sharp, striking out the side in his final inning of work. He was only facing a smattering of players expected to start the year with the Red Sox, but it was still a showing worth talking about.

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The two runs were the first allowed this spring by Suarez, who had thrown five scoreless innings up to that point. It certainly looks like it’s all coming together for the 24-year old lefty, who pitched admirably in relief for the Phillies in 2019, registering a 3.14 ERA over 48.2 innings.

But Suarez had always been a starter before last year, and it’s worth giving him an extended look in the role to see if the Phillies might have a legitimate southpaw that they can trot out every fifth day. It’s something that gives Suarez a distinct advantage over Nick Pivetta and Vince Velasquez, his competition for the #5 slot.

Suarez’ pitching profile also speaks more to him being a long-term starter. Despite his nice returns last year in relief, he lacks the kind of power generally desired in the bullpen. Plus, MLB’s new “three batter rule” puts a dent in the value of left-handers who rely more on control than a huge fastball. Simply put, while Suarez might still be a nice part of a bullpen, he has the potential to maximize his value in the rotation.

The Phillies would love nothing more than to see Pivetta or Velasquez run away with this opportunity, but you’re right to be skeptical of that happening. Pivetta has pitched to a messy ERA over 8.00 to this point of the spring. And while Velasquez’ numbers are good so far, how many times do we have to go to the well with him? Do we really want a nice spring to land him the job so that we can be subjected to a litany of 5-inning, 100-pitch performances?

Suarez looks like he’s actually a pitcher, not just a thrower, as Pivetta and Velasquez seem to be all too often. And he has a chance to be the first competent lefty in the Phils’ rotation basically since Cole Hamels.

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It’s a situation worth exploring for the Phillies. And it should become a reality if Ranger Suarez continues on this trajectory.