What happens to Phillies' rotation when Ranger Suarez returns?
The Philadelphia Phillies should receive a much-needed jolt to their rotation soon, as Ranger Suarez looks to be rounding into form after starting the season on the shelf due to elbow inflammation. This is a big deal, as the Phils have sorely missed the presence of Suarez, who emerged as a key cog during last year's World Series run.
Obviously, Suarez will be slotting right into the rotation, but what can (and what SHOULD) the Phillies do about the potential candidates for replacement: Bailey Falter and Matt Strahm? In terms of pure numbers thus far, Strahm would seem to have the edge, although they both have thrown in one dud to this point. Strahm does, however, need to be stretched out more, as he currently can't come close to the 95+ pitches that Falter has shown to be able to throw in an outing.
On its surface, this would dictate leaving Strahm in the rotation for the time being and building up his pitch counts while transitioning Falter into a swingman role. The Phillies do also have the option, should they choose to go that route, of assigning Falter to the minors without exposing him to waivers. This is not the case for Strahm. So, simple, right?
Can Phillies keep both Bailey Falter and Matt Strahm in rotation when Ranger Suarez returns?
Hang on; there may be a nice middle ground here. How about piggybacking them? It's not exactly ideal, since Falter and Strahm are both lefties, and opposing managers can stack their lineup with right-handed hitters accordingly. But getting three to four innings from each of them on a given night and essentially giving your bullpen a rest? Sign me up.
This plan would only last as long as everyone stays healthy, of course, which is probably wishful thinking. But by keeping both Strahm and Falter loose and throwing 75+ pitches every fifth day, it becomes that much easier to split them once again if (heaven forbid) someone goes down with an injury. Or maybe we even get a Griff McGarry sighting to fill a gap that arises, which would allow Strahm and Falter (who I will call " Batt Stralter") to continue their piggybacking journey. Fingers crossed that maybe even Andrew Painter will re-enter the conversation at some point, which would be a good "problem" to have.
The name of the game is keeping pitchers fresh enough so that they can be effective when it's crunch time in September. And hopefully October and November. A "Batt Stralter" piggyback, even if just a temporary arrangement, would be a good way to spread the workload around so that the bullpen isn't overtaxed while Zack Wheeler and Aaron Nola (if he recovers from early season struggles) don't have to absolutely run out of gas in every start because of said 'pen depletion. It's a vicious cycle, but perhaps it's one that the Phillies can at least partially solve.
And so I say we should try a split start/piggyback/whatever you want to call it option once Ranger Suarez returns to the rotation. It's time to give Batt Stralter a shot to show what he (and he) can do. It's not a permanent fix, but it could be a big help in the marathon MLB season.