Phils feel 'lucky' after Suárez takes line drive off pitching hand

Lefty dealing with hand contusion, but club will wait to make decision about his next start

June 2nd, 2024

PHILADELPHIA -- The Phillies are confident they dodged a bullet with Ranger Suárez’s injury scare on Saturday night.

Struck by a 106.1 mph line drive on his pitching hand, the always unflappable Suárez quickly recovered, picked up the ball and lobbed a throw to first for the final out of the top of the second inning in the Phillies' 6-1 win over the Cardinals at Citizens Bank Park.

Then, all attention turned to Suárez's pitching hand.

Off to one of the best starts to a season in Major League history, the left-hander winced in pain and covered his face with his glove as he walked slowly back to the dugout. Suárez then retreated down the dugout steps with assistant athletic trainer Joe Rauch -- and did not return for the third inning.

Suárez was diagnosed with a left hand contusion. X-rays were negative.

“The ball hit me close to my thumb, but luckily, it didn't catch any bone,” Suárez said via interpreter Diego D'Aniello. “So everything's good on that end. Obviously, it was a hard liner toward me, but as soon as I felt the ball hit me, I knew that everything was going to be OK.”

Added manager Rob Thomson: "I feel pretty lucky right now."

Still, the Phillies will wait to see if the swelling subsides over the next couple of days before making a decision about his next start, which would tentatively come next Saturday in London.

Suárez's early departure put an abrupt damper on a night that featured yet another fast start by the team with the best record in baseball. The Phillies (41-18) jumped out to a 3-0 first-inning lead against Cardinals ace Sonny Gray, thanks to an Alec Bohm two-run double and an RBI single by Nick Castellanos. Philadelphia leads the Majors in both runs scored (48) and run differential (+30) in the opening frame.

But the buzz from the sellout crowd of 44,668 quickly dissipated when Cards left fielder Alec Burleson ripped a comebacker off Suárez to end the top of the second. Suárez struck out two batters over two hitless and scoreless innings prior to exiting, lowering his season ERA to 1.70 to go with a 9-1 record and 79 strikeouts.

Suárez is just the eighth pitcher since earned runs started being tracked in 1913 to rack up at least nine wins, 75-plus strikeouts and a 1.70 ERA or better in his first 12 outings of a season. The others: Ubaldo Jiménez (2010), Pedro Martinez (2000 and 1997), Randy Johnson (2000), Roger Clemens (1997 and 1992), Greg Maddux (1994), Vida Blue (1971) and Sandy Koufax (1966).

Needless to say, replacing Suárez would not be an easy task if he needs to miss any time.

The silver lining, however, is the timing.

With the London Series next weekend, the Phillies are off for three of the next nine days. They are idle Thursday and Friday ahead of their two-game international set vs. the Mets, as well as the following Monday.

The tentative plan was to have Suárez pitch in London on Saturday and Taijuan Walker on Sunday.

"[Suárez] will get some extra days if he can make the start, and if not, that's fine, too,” Thomson said. “We'll figure it out, but we're going to take care of him and make sure that doesn't turn into something else."

One alternative would be to start Spencer Turnbull in Suárez's place. Turnbull, who thrived while filling in for Walker earlier this season, struck out six over three hitless innings of relief against the Cardinals.

"Turnbull really picked us up tonight," Thomson said. " ... If he does have to make Ranger's start, I am comfortable with him at 80 pitches, five [innings] -- something like that."

Only one pitcher in the Majors has made more than five starts and posted a better ERA in those outings than Suárez's 1.70 mark this season -- and that's Turnbull. He put up a 1.67 ERA over six starts to begin the season before moving to the bullpen around the time of Walker's return from the injured list.

"We have a guy in our bullpen that could probably be a starter in a lot of rotations right now,” said Bryce Harper, who provided some insurance with a two-run homer in the seventh. “Bull's been doing a great job for us and kind of just got the short end of the stick, right? He did such a great job for us earlier this season."

Of course, all of those plans are contingent on Suárez's status in the coming days.

“It’s all good,” Suárez said. “I just have to thank God on this one for being OK.”