Ranger (Suarez) Leads The Way? Looking at the Phillies Fifth starter Battle


If you don’t get the headline, it is the saying of the U.S. Army’s elite fighting unit, the Army Rangers. Being an Army Ranger, I had to incorporate it into this article. Here we look at the fifth spot in the Phillies rotation and the fact that Ranger Suarez is making a case to earn the spot.

The starting rotation has been an issue for Phillies the past few years. Matt Klentak addressed the issue by signing Zack Wheeler, however, questions still remain. The rotation is right-hand heavy and Suarez can be the only southpaw in the rotation.

Let’s start with the 24-year-old Venezuelan. So far this spring, Suarez has started three games. He holds a 1-1 record with a 2.25 ERA. Ranger gave up three runs, two of which were earned in eight innings. He has eight strikeouts and only gave up one base on balls (BOB). Suarez is certainly making a case this spring.

In 2019, Suarez played in 37 games in a relief role. He was 6-1 with a 3.14 ERA, striking out 42 and walking 12 in 48 innings pitched, but there is a major issue with Suarez. His sample size may be too low as far as innings pitched. As a starter, he would ideally be at 48 innings pitched in his 6th game. However, Suarez is a young pitcher that has more of an upside then what we see out of the other candidates.

The Usual Suspects

Pivetta is having a rough Spring. He too has started three games, holding a 0-1 record with an 8.22 ERA giving up seven earned runs in 7.2 innings pitched. He has ten strikeouts and surrendered four BOB. Last season, the 27-year-old Canadian hurler had a record of 4-6 with a 5.38 ERA in 30 games. He started 13 but was relegated to the bullpen for a majority of his appearances. He pitched 93.1 innings and struck out 89 while walking 39.

Velasquez is having an average spring. Like the other two hurlers, Vinny Velo has started three games. The 27-year-old California native holds a record of 0-1 with a 4-7. ERA giving up 4 runs, all of which were earned in 7.2 innings, where he struck out six and walked five. Last season Velasquez had a 7-8 record with a 4.91 ERA in33 games. He started 23 of those games striking out 133 and walking 43 in 117.1 innings pitched.

My opinion is that the position battle is between Suarez and Velasquez. However, the Phillies just released news that Seranthony Dominguez had a setback in his recovery. I would then like to see Velasquez given the opportunity to move into more of a setup role.

The Future:

The future, Spencer Howard, has finally made his spring training debut. After tweaking his knee in a workout prior to the start of spring training, Howard finally made his debut on Tuesday. The Phillies have been wanting to bring Howard along slowly after a shoulder injury caused him to miss time last year. In his debut, Howard gave up two hits and struck out one while en route to a scoreless inning.

Howard will begin the season at Lehigh Valley as he will be on a pitch count to start the season. I am hopeful he will make the big club at some point this season.

 Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports