Ranger Suarez ‘getting anxious' to return to Phillies' rotation


CHICAGO -- Ranger Suarez hadn't faced a hitter in six weeks before Bryce Harper stepped into the batter's box against him Tuesday at Guaranteed Rate Field.

Suarez threw 25 pitches during a live batting practice session, facing the rehabbing Harper and center fielder Cristian Pache.

"Looked like Ranger," Harper said. "Sinkers, changeups, sliders, everything. I hope he gets healthy as quick as possible because we definitely need him."

This was Suarez' first time seeing a hitter in a live setting since his March 8 World Baseball Classic exhibition start for Team Venezuela against the Houston Astros.

He left the WBC early with an elbow injury and has ramped back up gradually since, throwing multiple bullpen sessions. 

"I'm feeling better, much better," Suarez said after walking off the mound Tuesday. "I'm making progress and things are moving forward. I've been working really hard with the trainers, the strength and conditioning coaches and I have something to show for it finally."

Suarez will throw another live BP session this week back in Philadelphia once the Phillies return Thursday for a six-game homestand against the Rockies and Mariners. 

From there, the next step would likely be a minor-league rehab assignment.

"I assume I'm going to have to go to the minor leagues to ramp up a little more," Suarez said. "I need to get more pitches in before I can actually make my debut here in 2023. I don't really know. I feel healthy. I'm going to have to talk to the trainers."

If Suarez returns to a fully healthy rotation, the Phillies will have to decide whether to shift lefty Matt Strahm back to the bullpen role he was signed to fill or temporarily go to a six-man rotation to ease Suarez back.

Strahm has pitched well in two of his three starts with four scoreless innings at Yankee Stadium and five scoreless innings against the Marlins. He dealt with an apparent blister over the weekend in Cincinnati and his control was erratic. Strahm threw 67 pitches, walked three and allowed three runs in 2⅔ innings.

Suarez can relate as he bounced between long relief, closing and starting in 2021, appearing 27 times as a reliever and starting 12 games. He succeeded in all three roles to earn a 2022 rotation spot and went 10-7 with a 3.65 ERA in 29 starts. Including the playoffs, he threw exactly 180 innings in 2023.

"I'm getting anxious to get back on the mound," he said. "I hope as soon as possible."

In other pitching news, Nick Nelson, the Phillies' long reliever last season, will begin a rehab assignment Tuesday with Single A Clearwater. Nelson faced Harper last week at Citizens Bank Park.

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