Phillies Spring Training Update: Aaron Nola, Ranger Suárez, Sánchez's struggles

As Opening Day approaches and Phillies starters build up workloads, here's an update on some of the club's rotation pieces from the past week.

Philadelphia Phillies starting pitcher Aaron Nola
Philadelphia Phillies starting pitcher Aaron Nola / Nathan Ray Seebeck-USA TODAY Sports

Opening Day is on the horizon. The Philadelphia Phillies head back to Citizens Bank Park on March 28. As spring training rolls on, many players are beginning to ramp up their workloads in preparation for the regular season.

Phillies starting pitchers are aiming to pitch deeper into spring training games as they build up arm strength. Let's see how some of the starting staff has fared over the past week.

Cristopher Sánchez struggled in his most recent outing

In just his second spring training outing, Cristopher Sánchez struggled against the Houston Astros. In 2 1/3 innings, the Phillies' left-hander allowed four earned runs on eight hits and two walks. One of the highlights of Sánchez's outing was striking out Astros' slugger Yordan Álvarez.

It is just one spring training outing, so there is no cause for concern at this point. Sánchez will still be a part of the regular season rotation when spring training draws to a close. He showed that he can be a reliable back-of-the-rotation type pitcher.

The left-hander has been working on adding a cutter to his pitch arsenal this spring. According to Corey Seidman of NBC Sports Philadelphia, Sánchez is adding the pitch to get right-handed bats out. Last season, right-handed hitters batted .324 against his fastball, but just .161 off the changeup. Adding the cutter is just another way to try to trick right-handed bats.

Look for Sánchez to be better in outings going forward as he works on his new pitch and continues to build up his arm strength.

Ranger Suárez has yet to allow an earned run this spring

Another Phillies left-handed pitcher, Ranger Suárez, has looked great this spring. In three outings thus far, Suárez has yielded just four hits across 10 scoreless innings. His most recent outing was against the Boston Red Sox at BayCare Ballpark in Clearwater.

In that outing, the 28-year-old pitched 3 2/3 innings, allowing just one hit and striking out five Red Sox hitters. The only blemish was his walk total. He gave up four free passes, which drove his pitch count up to 66, knocking him out before entering the fifth inning.

Here are Suárez's five punchouts against the Red Sox:

Suárez will be a key piece in the Phillies' rotation this season. He is healthier this year as opposed to last year when he began the season on the injured list. Should he remain healthy, there is no reason to believe that the left-hander will not improve on his inconsistent 2023 regular season.

Aaron Nola bounced back in his start this week

The homegrown Phillies' starter made his fourth spring training start on Wednesday and pitched well overall after a rough start last week.

In his most recent start, Aaron Nola pitched 4 2/3 innings against the Detroit Tigers in Clearwater. He allowed just one earned run on a home run to a former teammate, Matt Vierling. Throwing 62 pitches in that span, Nola allowed four baserunners on two hits and two walks, but he struck out five.

It's encouraging to see Nola pitching into the fifth inning at this point in spring training. He will likely make one more start prior to Opening Day, when he could be on the mound against the Atlanta Braves in Philadelphia.

Despite some inconsistent spring training numbers, Nola has looked good overall. Entering the 2024 regular season, he is slated to be one of the Phillies' top two starting pitchers along with Zack Wheeler. In recent years, they have been one of the best starting duos in the game.

According to's Todd Zolecki, the starting duo has posted a WAR over four seasons that is behind only two other starting pairs in franchise history. Since the Divisional Era began in 1969, only Cliff Lee and Cole Hamels from 2011-2014 and Roy Halladay and Hamels from 2010-2013 have posted a higher combined WAR.

The club will rely on Nola again in 2024 — and for the next seven seasons — to be a top-of-the-rotation starter. Even though he has frustrated some fans over the course of his career, it's fairly certain that he will pitch close to 200 innings and be a valuable pitcher for the club going forward.