As the Philadelphia Phillies chase their first postseason appearance in a decade, they’ve elected to make a rather radical decision in hopes of shoring up their starting rotation.
Ahead of Saturday evening’s game in Pittsburgh, Phillies manager Joe Girardi told the collective media — including Matt Gelb of The Athletic — that Ranger Suárez will join the starting rotation beginning on Monday in Washington. Kyle Gibson is expected to make his Phillies debut Sunday against the Pirates, with both Vince Velasquez and Matt Moore now out of the starting rotation. Chase Anderson, for the time being, will re-join the starting rotation. Veteran Ian Kennedy will become the new closer.
Suárez has been one of baseball’s best relievers in 2021, as the 25-year-old lefty has just a 1.12 ERA and 3.31 FIP in 27 games this season. He’s is a starting pitcher by trade, but has flashed quite a bit of potential as a high-leverage reliever both in 2019 and 2021. For an organization that’s had so much trouble finding competent relievers in recent years, it’s seemingly quite the risk to remove Suárez from the bullpen altogether.
That said, it was hard to envision trotting either Moore or Velasquez out for another start. Moore had a 7.15 ERA in five starts in July. Velasquez had a 12.23 ERA in the five starts that he made in July. Both will move to the bullpen, though it’s unclear how much value — if any — either will provide as relievers.
For now, Gelb notes that the plan is to have Suárez toss three innings in Monday’s start, as he builds back up as a starter.
Meanwhile, Anderson essentially earns another chance in the rotation by default. The 33-year-old has a 6.75 ERA and 5.18 FIP in 13 games this season, eight of which have been starts. President of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski said Friday that the Phillies hope Zach Eflin, currently dealing with right knee patellar tendinitis, will return in two-three weeks.
Bailey Falter — a natural starter that’s shown promise out of the bullpen this season — has cleared COVID protocol per Gelb, but Girardi apparently believes the rookie will need “a long rehab.” The Phillies could have used Falter out of the starting rotation or as a left-handed option in the bullpen.
Kennedy — acquired just yesterday from the Rangers, in the same deal as Gibson — has 16 saves in 17 opportunities this season. Matt Breen of The Philadelphia Inquirer notes that he’ll be available in Saturday’s game.
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