The best-case scenario in the Phillies rotation after spring training was Aaron Nola, Zach Wheeler, Tejuan Walker, Ranger Suarez, and Andrew Painter with Billy Walter poised to be the next guy, whether that meant staying at extended relief or at Triple A.
Instead, it looks like the Phillies will open the season with Nola, Wheeler, Walker, and Falter and there’s no immediate answer in the bottom five. It is unlikely that Ranger Suarez will be ready for his first spinoff due to forearm/elbow issues but the team doesn’t look too concerned. Painter will not throw until at least April 1 due to a sprained right elbow.
Left-handed reliever Matt Strahm, signed to a two-year, $1 million contract, is a former rookie who is stretched back to pitch at least three innings. He’s thrown 2 and 2⅓ in his last two runs pitching three innings against various boosters as the Phillies’ fifth home run coming in the first time. Strahm played 16 games in 2019. He still has a bunch of starting pitches – a four-seam, two-seam fastball, slider, curveball, and changeup.
Nola and Wheeler will pitch the first two games of the season. Walker will be ready to go in his first turn. He threw 76 pitches and entered the fifth inning against the Rays Wednesday at Tropicana Field, allowing six runs on eight hits and two runs with five strikeouts. He had a dominant start against Great Britain in the World Baseball Classic, hitting eight homers in four innings.
Falter pitched well last Friday, allowing a run to the Blue Jays over five innings. Thursday starts against the Tigers.
Left-hander Michael Blasmere, who allowed one run in 11 innings this spring, is another option for an early season starter. It will be the fifth starter’s debut at Yankee Stadium in the second series. A factor in the decision could be the Yankees’ hard-hitting right-handed lineup, which has only one left-hander (Anthony Rizzo) in the top five.
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