Philadelphia Phillies 2023 Season Position Breakdown: Starting Pitching
The Phillies have injuries to their starting pitching to begin the season.
The Philadelphia Phillies have had issues staying healthy this spring. The starting rotation has especially taken a hit, with Ranger Suárez and Andrew Painter sidelined. Suárez's injury does not appear as serious and he may just miss a start or two. Painter, on the other hand, has to rest a strained UCL in his pitching elbow. This injury will take a bit more time to bounce back from.
Despite early injuries, the Phillies' rotation is not in terrible shape to begin the season. Right-handers Aaron Nola and Zack Wheeler are coming off solid seasons. The club also added Taijuan Walker this offseason to add to the strength of the rotation. They also have some depth in left-handers Bailey Falter and Michael Plassmeyer. The club has also stretched out newly acquired left-hander Matt Strahm to eat innings while Suárez heals and builds his arm strength.
It appears that Nola will make his sixth straight Opening Day start for the Phillies. Nola is coming off a strong 2022 season in which he demonstrated an ability to pitch in big games. He also finished fourth in the National League Cy Young voting. Nola will look to follow up his 2022 campaign with another strong season. The Phillies' homegrown ace is headed to free agency after the season. He will cash in on a big payday, whether he re-signs or goes elsewhere. The Phillies will rely on Nola to continue his dominance as they look to reach the postseason for the second consecutive season.
Wheeler — the co-ace of the rotation — is another pivotal piece in the club's success. In 2022, he posted a 2.82 ERA with 163 strikeouts in 153 innings. He missed some time down the stretch with forearm tendinitis, but that may have helped save his arm for the postseason. Wheeler compiled a 2.72 ERA in the postseason and was a key piece in the Phillies making the World Series. The right-hander has pitched like a true ace since coming to the club in 2020.
The Phillies signed Walker to boost their rotation. He will eat innings and is a proven big-league starter. Walker is coming off of a solid year with the New York Mets. He has some injury history and has worn down in the second half of the season at times. The Phillies do not need him to be an ace, but rather to eat innings and keep the team in games. If he can do that, the offense is well-equipped to score enough runs to win the games in which he starts.
When Suárez is healthy to pitch, he will likely fall into a spot between Wheeler and Walker to split the right-handers. Suárez has proven to be a calm mound presence and contributed to the Phillies making a run. While he is out, Falter should be able to hold down a spot in the rotation.
Falter played a huge role in steadying the rotation last season when Wheeler was on the injured list. He is also having a really good spring. The Phillies saw what Falter could do last season. Similar to Walker, Falter needs to eat innings and keep the Phillies in games. The same can be said for Plassmeyer and Strahm. All three are left-handers who provide added rotation depth. Strahm was signed to be a reliever but has started before in his career.
The Phillies are starting the year with some questions in the rotation. Once Suárez is healthy, Plassmeyer can be a depth piece in the minors and Strahm can pitch out of the bullpen. Dave Dombrowski said he believes Painter will still pitch for the Phillies in 2023.
Once healthy, the Phillies have the makings of a really good starting rotation. While pitching depth can never be deep enough, the club has in-house options to "hold down the fort" while some pitchers recover from injuries. Throughout a 162-game season, there will likely be more injuries. The Phillies appear to be happy with their depth to overcome those bumps and build on last season's success.