Notes: Suárez, solid play making decisions hard
CLEARWATER, Fla. – It is early, but Phillies left-hander Ranger Suárez is making his case to be the team’s No. 5 starter.
He allowed three hits and one unearned run in three innings of work during Sunday's 3-2 loss to the Orioles at Spectrum Field, striking out a trio. Having allowed one unearned run in five innings this spring, Suárez has kept himself in the mix alongside right-handers Nick Pivetta (four earned runs in 4 1/3 innings) and Vince Velasquez (two scoreless innings). All of this comes after the lefty entered camp a perceived longshot behind the pair because they have better stuff and more upside.
The conventional thinking is Suárez will really need to outpitch Pivetta and Velasquez to win the job. He thinks he can.
“Yes, of course,” he said through a team interpreter. “If they give me the opportunity, I’ll try and take advantage of it. … All my life, I have been a starting pitcher. Last year was the first time I was a reliever. But it’s really about where they need me.”
If Suárez ends up in the bullpen, he would be the third lefty in the eight-man bullpen, alongside José Álvarez and Adam Morgan. Suárez was 6-1 with a 3.14 ERA in 37 relief appearances last season. He was 1-1 with a 5.40 ERA in four appearances (three starts) in 2018.
Hunter no, Arano a maybe
Phillies manager Joe Girardi said that right-hander Tommy Hunter probably will not make the Opening Day roster. He said right-hander Vìctor Arano is “probably a maybe” to make it. Both are recovering from elbow injuries. Neither has pitched in a Grapefruit League game.
Left-hander Damon Jones struck out two in one scoreless inning. In three scoreless frames this spring, Jones has not allowed a hit, walking two and striking out five. Jones, 25, has spent his Minor League career as a starter, but he could work himself into the conversation for a bullpen job at some point this season. The Phillies need arms.
“He's interesting,” Girardi said. “He [throws] 95 and it has run and sink to it. He has a really good slider. I know he's been a starter in the past. But, I mean, it's interesting. I think he's been as high as Double-A. Triple-A? I think it's way too early to evaluate. But I think there are spots to be had [in the bullpen] here.”
So if a young starter impresses here, Girardi could feel compelled to take him as a reliever?
“I think you have to consider that, yes,” he said. “And I think part of that is what you project him as down the road.”
Harrison flashes glove, bat
Josh Harrison is one of a handful of veteran non-roster invitees fighting for a bench job. He made a nice diving catch to turn a 4-6 double play to end the sixth inning. He then hit a home run to lead off the bottom of the sixth.
Harrison is batting .273 (3-for-11) with an .879 OPS this spring.
“It's way too early,” Girardi said about the bench competition. “I mean, I think they've all played well, which is making it hard on me. The tough decisions are the extra spots on the position-player roster, the bullpen and the fifth starter.”
Arrieta is feeling it
Jake Arrieta threw 54 pitches in a scrimmage at Carpenter Complex Sunday. He pitched there because the Phillies wanted Suárez to face the Orioles.
Sunday would have been Arrieta’s second start of the spring, and now he is penciled in for Friday.
Arrieta got into some bad habits with his mechanics last season when he pitched with bone spurs in his right elbow. He is working this spring to make the correction.
“It’s just reps,” Arrieta said. “I'm pretty close. … Everything has great action. I’m just a little quick on the front side. Moving laterally. It's finishing outside the zone. So, just tightening that up -- the feel on the front side. All of the feedback is great. The changeup action is like a split. The cutter is really good. Yeah. I'm throwing quality strikes. Commanding the sinker on my glove the side, that's the hardest thing to command for anybody. Opposite of the throwing side. Down in the zone. That was good today.”
The Phillies head to CoolToday Park Monday to face the National League East champion Braves for the second time this spring. Zach Eflin will make his second Grapefruit League start after two scoreless innings last time out while the Braves will counter with lefty Sean Newcomb. Listen live, with first pitch it set for 6:05 p.m. ET.