Phillies Rotation

Suarez excited to have a smooth spring, for once

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CLEARWATER, Fla. — It's been just two starts, but Ranger Suarez already has his largest spring training workload in four years.

The lefty pitched 3⅓ innings Friday against an Astros lineup of mostly minor-leaguers. He's up to 6⅓ scoreless in camp with no walks and seven strikeouts.

Suarez did not appear in spring training games a year ago after leaving camp for the World Baseball Classic, then leaving the WBC early with a forearm/elbow issue. He ramped up slowly and made his season debut on May 13 in the Phillies' 39th game.

The prior two years, 2021 and 2022, visa issues delayed Suarez' arrival to camp. Only in 2020 did he pitch more in spring training than he has this year.

He's set up for a smoother start to the season.

"I'm feeling great, thank god I haven't had any issues," he said through team interpreter Diego D'Aniello. "It's very important for me to have a full spring training and stay healthy. Past years I've been injured or haven't had great starts.

"I'm feeling great both mentally and physically so I'm trying to do what it takes to get to the season healthy and stay healthy."

The Phillies had one of baseball's deeper starting rotations last season and project to be just as strong in 2024. Beyond Zack Wheeler and Aaron Nola, they have at least two pitchers they think can perform up to No. 3 starter standards in Suarez and Cristopher Sanchez. Taijuan Walker, who led the team in wins but is coming off of an uneven season, is making No. 3 starter's money for three more years.

Suarez has become a trusted, underrated piece of the Phillies' puzzle. He's been their third starter two postseasons in a row and has had staggering success with a 1.62 ERA and 0.90 WHIP in 33⅓ innings. The only starters in the last 50 years with a lower postseason ERA in at least as many innings as Suarez are Stephen Strasburg and Ian Anderson.

The next step for the 28-year-old Suarez is making a full complement of starts. His season-highs are 29 starts and 155⅓ innings.

"That's every starter's goal," he said, "to throw 200 innings and make all his starts."

The game

• Bryson Stott had a big day against the Astros with a two-run homer, an RBI single and an RBI groundout. Stott's focus this spring is laying off borderline pitches. Plate selection has been the Phillies' point of emphasis in camp and Stott thinks taking more of those 50-50 offerings this time of year could better prepare him to do so in the regular season.

• J.T. Realmuto had a three-hit day. The quality of his and Trea Turner's contact has stood out this spring.

• Gregory Soto struck out the side in his inning of work. The Phillies also used Jose Alvarado, Seranthony Dominguez, Andrew Bellatti, Luis Ortiz and Tyler McKay.

Orion Kerkering was one of numerous Phillies dealing with illness this week but he was back at BayCare Ballpark Friday and feeling better. He said he might be back in a game Monday.

• David Dahl, batting ninth and starting in left field, stroked an RBI double down the right-field line in his first at-bat. The former Rockies All-Star is battling for a final bench role and has had a solid showing so far with a double and two homers. He, too, had been dealing with an illness and joked that he felt like he was going to pass out after the two-bagger.

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