Surprise name likely to join Phillies rotation as Ranger Suárez suffers setback

Ranger Suárez of the Philadelphia Phillies
Ranger Suárez of the Philadelphia Phillies / Nathan Ray Seebeck-USA TODAY Sports

It seems unlikely that Phillies left-hander Ranger Suárez will be ready for his first turn in the rotation of the 2023 season.

The Philadelphia Phillies' regular season is only a week away, but it does not appear the club will be at full strength in terms of its starting pitching. According to several reports on Wednesday, left-hander Ranger Suárez has suffered a setback — experiencing inflammation in his left elbow.

The good news is that an MRI revealed that Suárez has no structural damage and the Phillies are not seriously concerned. Still, they will take extra caution by shutting him down for a few days. Because of this, Phillies manager Rob Thomson told reporters that there is a "strong possibility" the left-hander will not be ready the first week of the season. Suárez's injury woes began this spring when he felt forearm tightness while making a start earlier this month for Venezuela in the World Baseball Classic.

With no clear spots in the rotation defined beyond Aaron Nola, Zack Wheeler, and Taijuan Walker, the Phillies clearly have a problem on their hands by temporarily losing their fourth starter in Suárez. But Thomson and Dave Dombrowski have a plan.

According to the Philadelphia Inquirer's David Murphy, the Phillies are stretching out Matt Strahm, who presumingly could begin the season as their fourth or fifth starter. Thomson added that other pitchers can likewise pick up innings in Suárez's absence.

Fellow left-handers Bailey Falter and Cristopher Sánchez are in the mix. At least one will need to throw bulk innings, as the team is without a defined fifth starter even when Suárez is healthy.

A seven-year veteran, Straham has made just one start since the 2020 season. The Phillies signed the southpaw to be a back-end relief option, so shuffling him around to a starter role surely shakes up the entire outlook of the pitching staff.

Suárez and top prospect Andrew Painter's setbacks surely through the Phillies a "curveball" this spring training. Hopefully, the team can adapt and continue its strong momentum from "Red October" last fall.