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Notes: Suárez's rotation bid; Arano throws BP

@ToddZolecki
March 7, 2020

CLEARWATER, Fla. -- Manager Joe Girardi said at the beginning of camp last month that the Phillies would love to name their No. 5 starter by the middle of March. That seems unlikely.

CLEARWATER, Fla. -- Manager Joe Girardi said at the beginning of camp last month that the Phillies would love to name their No. 5 starter by the middle of March.

That seems unlikely.

"That's probably a pretty good assessment," he said after Saturday's 10-2 victory over the Red Sox at Spectrum Field. "Obviously, you hope that it declares itself early on so you can put the other guys in the roles that they need to be in. But it may not."

Nobody has separated himself in this three-pitcher race.

Phillies left-hander Ranger Suárez remains in the thick of it, along with right-handers Nick Pivetta and Vince Velasquez. Suárez allowed five hits and two runs in three innings Saturday. He struck out four. The two runs he allowed in the third inning were the first earned runs he's allowed this spring. Suárez had a runner on second with no outs in the third when he struck out Jackie Bradley Jr. on a fastball, Kevin Plawecki on a changeup and Philadelphia native Josh Ockimey on a slider.

"The long inning, he kind of lost his slot a little bit," Girardi said. "But when he needed it, he got it back, which to me shows he's able to make in-game adjustments, which is important."

Suárez (two earned runs in eight innings), Pivetta (seven earned runs in 7 2/3 innings) and Velasquez (one earned run in five innings) have had their moments this spring. Velasquez pitches Sunday against the Blue Jays in Dunedin.

"I want to show them that I'm getting the job done," Suárez said through the team's interpreter. "The rest is really up to them."

Aaron Nola, Zack Wheeler, Jake Arrieta and Zach Eflin will take up the first four jobs in the rotation. Girardi said he likes what he sees from the entire group.

"There's different looks," he said. "There's power, there's very good breaking balls, there's four-seamers, there's sinkers, there's just different stuff. It's going to be a different look every day, which I think is important."

Arano takes another step

Right-hander Vìctor Arano threw one inning of live batting practice at Carpenter Complex on Saturday. It is an encouraging step for Arano, who remains in play to the make the Opening Day bullpen.

"I feel good," Arano said. "I'm throwing hard. Ninety-four [mph], 95, maybe. In the bullpen, 92-93."

Arano had season-ending elbow surgery last year and then experienced soreness in his right shoulder in December. He will pitch one more live batting practice session before possibly pitching in a game next week.

Phillies alter autograph policy, following CDC recommendations

The Phillies announced Saturday a temporary policy regarding players signing autographs, following recommendations from the CDC regarding COVID-19. The team issued the following statement after holding a meeting with players:

"The Phillies recognize that autograph signing for some fans is part of the overall appeal of attending Spring Training games. As a precautionary measure for both our players and our fans, we are making adjustments to this experience based on recommendations from the CDC. As a temporary solution, we have asked players to pre-sign a limited number of baseballs and photo cards in the clubhouse in advance of the game. Security personnel will be available to assist players in the distribution of these pre-signed items before the start of our home games here in Clearwater."

Said first baseman Rhys Hoskins, who is the team's representative with the players union: "It has everything to do with safety. The autographs and interactions, especially down here in Spring Training, are a little bit more intimate and more personal. We understand as players that this is a chance to connect with fans, but at the same time, this is something that's turning into something that's global. Unfortunately, until we have more information and knowledge of the subject, the league is asking us to be safe than sorry. There will still be opportunities to get [autographs] out there. We're just kind of skipping the middleman and making sure that everyone involved is safe."

Phillies make first spring cuts

The Phillies made six roster moves Saturday. They optioned left-hander JoJo Romero to Triple-A Lehigh Valley and optioned right-hander Adonis Medina and left-hander Cristopher Sanchez to Double-A Reading. They reassigned left-handers Kyle Dohy, Damon Jones and Zach Warren to Minor League camp.

"We told them, 'Think about how many pitchers [34] the Phillies used last year,'" Girardi said. "You're not that far away. You really aren't. Make sure when the phone rings you're ready. Leave your phone on at night, too."

Extra bases

• Left-hander Francisco Liriano pitched a scoreless inning. He has pitched four scoreless innings this spring and remains a strong contender for a bullpen job. Right-handers Anthony Swarzak (four earned runs in four innings) and Drew Storen (two earned runs in four innings) each pitched a scoreless inning.

• Eflin pitched four innings in a simulated game at Carpenter Complex. His command returned after struggling with it Monday against the Braves in North Port.

• Catcher Andrew Knapp is expected to play in his first Grapefruit League game next week. He has been sidelined with a left rib cage injury.

Up next

Velasquez faces the Blue Jays on Sunday at 1:07 p.m. ET in Dunedin. Velasquez has allowed one earned run in five innings this spring as he continues to battle Pivetta and Suárez to be the team's No. 5 starter.

Todd Zolecki has covered the Phillies since 2003, and for MLB.com since 2009. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook .