Phillies have a big starting pitching problem on their hands

Ranger Suarez #55 of the Philadelphia Phillies (Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)
Ranger Suarez #55 of the Philadelphia Phillies (Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images) /

The Phillies likely won’t have Ranger Suarez, Zach Eflin, or Zack Wheeler to start the season

It might be a while before three expected key cogs of the 2022 Philadelphia Phillies starting rotation — Zack Wheeler, Ranger Suarez, and Zach Eflin — will be ready and able to pitch.

For a team trying to snap the longest postseason drought in the National League, this is not ideal with the April 8 regular-season opener against the Oakland Athletics less than a month away.

Wheeler revealed this week that he felt some soreness in the winter when he was doing his offseason routine, and it impeded his ramp-up. He says he feels fine now, but is behind schedule, and may not be ready for Opening Day. Of the three pitchers, he is the best-case scenario.

According to the Philadelphia Inquirer’s Scott Lauber, the left-handed Suarez will be late to Phillies spring training and is at risk to miss the first few weeks of the season. This delay stems from hang-ups related to Suarez’s visa — “a consequence of the lockout,” says Lauber.

Meanwhile, Eflin’s return timetable currently remains unclear. The right-hander last pitched in mid-July and in early September, he underwent surgery to repair his right patellar tendon. At the time, it was said Eflin’s expected recovery time would be 6-8 months. So, that leaves the March at best — or May at worst timeframe — as to when the 27-year-old can resume throwing activities.

Potentially without both Suarez and Eflin – assuming Wheeler is okay or only briefly delayed – the only remaining believed-to-be-healthy members of the Phillies rotation include Aaron Nola and Kyle Gibson.

When at 100 percent, Eflin has reliable No. 3 starter potential; during the shortened 2020 season, he impressively went 4-2 with a 70-15 strikeouts-to-walks ratio across 59 innings. Losing Suarez for a period of time especially hurts, as his expected ERA last season was among the best in Major League Baseball, minimum 250 batted balls against:

With other glaring holes on the roster, such as solidifying the left field and right field positions, among others, Phillies President of Baseball Operations Dave Dombrowski clearly has a lot of work to do with very little time.