Phillies' rotation won't look the way they hoped to start the season

Phillies' rotation won't look the way they hoped to start the season originally appeared on NBC Sports Philadelphia

The best-case scenario in the Phillies' rotation coming out of spring training would have been Aaron Nola, Zack Wheeler, Taijuan Walker, Ranger Suarez and Andrew Painter with Bailey Falter ready as the next man up, whether that meant staying stretched out in long relief or at Triple A.

Instead, the Phillies look like they'll open the season with Nola, Wheeler, Walker, Falter and no immediate clear-cut answer in the No. 5 spot. Ranger Suarez is unlikely to be ready for his first turn in the rotation because of forearm/elbow problems but the team doesn't sound overly concerned. Painter won't throw until at least April 1 because of a right elbow sprain.

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Left-handed reliever Matt Strahm, signed to a two-year, $15 million contract, is a former starter being stretched back out to pitch at least three innings. He's pitched 2 and 2⅓ his last two times out and is in play to go three innings in front of various relievers when the fifth spot comes up in the Phillies' rotation the first time. Strahm made 16 starts in 2019. He still has a starter's array of pitches -- four-seam fastball, two-seamer, slider, curveball and changeup.

Nola and Wheeler will pitch the first two games of the season. Walker will be ready to go for his first turn. He threw 76 pitches and went into the fifth inning against the Rays Wednesday at Tropicana Field, allowing six runs on eight hits and two walks with five strikeouts. He had a dominant start against Great Britain in the World Baseball Classic, striking out eight over four innings.

Falter pitched well last Friday, allowing a run to the Blue Jays over five innings. He starts Thursday against the Tigers.

Left-hander Michael Plassmeyer, who has allowed one run in 11 innings this spring, is another option for early-season spot starts. The fifth starter's first appearance would be at Yankee Stadium in the second series. A factor in the decision could be the Yankees' heavily right-handed lineup, which features only one lefty (Anthony Rizzo) in the top five spots.