Globe iconLogin iconRecap iconSearch iconTickets icon
news

MLB News

Notes: Suárez's return; Howard's velocity dip

@ToddZolecki
September 1, 2020

PHILADELPHIA -- Phillies left-hander Ranger Suárez lived in isolation in a hotel room for approximately a month this summer in Clearwater, Fla. He tested positive for COVID-19 in June, and subsequent tests continued to return positive, even though he felt fine after a few days of dizziness.

PHILADELPHIA -- Phillies left-hander Ranger Suárez lived in isolation in a hotel room for approximately a month this summer in Clearwater, Fla. He tested positive for COVID-19 in June, and subsequent tests continued to return positive, even though he felt fine after a few days of dizziness.

Suárez could not leave the room, so he ordered food from apps, played video games and FaceTimed with his family. He did not throw a baseball during quarantine, which explains why he missed the first half of the season.

Suárez finally rejoined the bullpen on Monday.

“I tried to stay busy so I wouldn’t go crazy,” he said Tuesday through the team’s interpreter. “The frustrating part is that I felt pretty good, but I couldn’t do anything. I wasn’t allowed to leave my room. … It was definitely frustrating, but it wasn’t as frustrating as you can imagine because it was something I couldn’t control. I was more worried than frustrated, because I didn’t know what to expect from this virus.”

The Phillies will need six, and even seven, starters the final month of the season because they will play five seven-inning doubleheaders in 15 days from Sept. 8-22. Suárez should help. He threw 40 pitches in his final simulated game at the team’s alternate training site in Allentown, Pa. The left-hander can pitch multiple innings if needed.

Suárez went 6-1 with a 3.14 ERA in 37 relief appearances last season, but he is a starter by trade. He entered Spring Training as a candidate to be the Phillies’ No. 5 starter. He pitched well, but Spring Training got cancelled in March and the job ultimately went to Vince Velasquez following his performance in Summer Camp.

“It was very unfortunate what happened to me, but I’m just focused, right now, on helping the team in any way I can,” Suárez said. “If I have to be a reliever, I’ll be a reliever. If I have to be a starting pitcher, I’ll be a starting pitcher. Whatever they need me for, that’s why I’m here.”

Howard’s velocity
Rookie right-hander Spencer Howard earned his first big league win on Monday with his most effective performance in four starts. But the Phillies are trying to figure out why Howard’s velocity dropped 3.4 mph from the first inning to the fifth.

Howard’s four-seam fastball averaged 95.3 mph in the first inning, 94.6 mph in the second, 93.7 mph in the third, 92.2 mph in the fourth and 91.9 mph in the fifth.

“We’re kind of digging into that to find out,” Phillies manager Joe Girardi said. “It’s not something that he’s experienced in the past. We’re looking at everything -- diet, conditioning, the shorter Spring Training. We’re looking at everything. We’re trying to figure that out. Physically, he feels fine, so I’m not concerned about it, but I would like to get to the bottom of it. I think we all would.”

Phelps arrives, Morgan to IL
The Phillies added right-hander David Phelps to the 28-man active roster before Tuesday night’s game against the Nationals at Citizens Bank Park. They acquired Phelps Monday in a trade with the Brewers.

Phelps took the roster spot of left-hander Adam Morgan, whom the Phillies placed on the 10-day injured list with a fatigued left shoulder. Morgan has a 5.87 ERA in 11 appearances. His four-seam fastball has averaged 91.8 mph after averaging 92.7 mph last season and 94.1 mph in 2018.

Morgan’s trip to the IL (retroactive to Monday) keeps rookie left-hander JoJo Romero in the bullpen. Romero has impressed in three hitless (and scoreless) appearances, walking one and striking out six in the process. Girardi used him in back-to-back appearances Sunday and Monday with encouraging results.

Romero could pitch himself into a more featured role.

“He’s been really consistent throwing strikes,” Girardi said. “He’s used a couple different pitches. His ball seems to get on hitters pretty quickly, and we like what we see.”

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