The Phillies are stretching lefty Matt Strahm out to handle a multi-inning relief option, tweets Scott Lauber of the Philadelphia Inquirer. Manager Rob Thomson said this week that the organization’s goal is for Strahm to be built up to the point that he can handle three-inning stints by the end of camp, Lauber notes. He’s slated to start one of the Phillies’ split-squad games today.
Stretching Strahm out is of particular note given the lefty’s previous work as a starter, his five-pitch repertoire, and his previously vocal stance about wanting to return to that role at some point in his career. As The Athletic’s Matt Gelb further writes, Strahm is open to any and all roles with the Phils this season.
Strahm’s career 3.11 ERA as a reliever trounces his shaky 5.08 mark as a starter, though that’s come in a sample of just 25 starts spread across four seasons. Whether he emerges as a legitimate rotation option for the Phillies at some point over the course of his current two-year, $15MM deal will likely depend greatly on the health of the team’s other options. With that in mind, it’s notable that the move to stretch Strahm out comes in conjunction with Andrew Painter’s month-long shutdown due to a UCL sprain and Ranger Suarez’s delay due to forearm tightness.
Thomson told reporters yesterday that Suarez is back on a throwing program and feeling good (Twitter link via Gelb), but he won’t be fully built up by the time the season gets underway. The Phils aren’t planning to place Suarez on the injured list to begin the season, however. As such, it seems likely his per-start workload would be capped for at least his first few turns through the rotation. Having Strahm stretched out to three or more innings would allow the Phillies to piggyback the two if they choose to go that route, and there’s obvious benefit in having Strahm stretched out in the event that the Philadelphia rotation sustains an injury of note.
For now, the likely plan in the event of another injury in the rotation would be to give 26-year-old southpaw Michael Plassmeyer a chance, Corey Seidman of NBC Sports Philadelphia writes. The 2018 fourth-rounder, acquired in the trade that sent catcher Austin Wynns to the Giants, made his MLB debut with the Phils last season (three runs in 7 1/3 innings) and posted a 2.41 ERA in 16 starts with their Triple-A affiliate following that swap. Plassmeyer has tossed seven scoreless frames this spring, though he’s issued six walks and punched out just four hitters in that time.
As it stands, the Phillies still project to have one of the NL’s stronger rotations. Each of Aaron Nola, Zack Wheeler, Taijuan Walker and Bailey Falter have been healthy this spring, and it seems the forearm tightness that sent Suarez home from the World Baseball Classic has proven to be minor in nature.
Beyond Strahm and Plassmeyer, top prospects Mick Abel and Griff McGarry will open the season in the upper minors, but both have limited innings above A-ball to this point in their young career (23 for Abel, 40 2/3 for McGarry). Lefty Cristopher Sanchez and righty Nick Nelson are both on the 40-man roster but were both shut down earlier this week due to triceps and hamstring injuries, respectively. The Phils did receive one positive injury update yesterday, as backup catcher Garrett Stubbs told Lauber and others that he’s dealing with only a minor knee sprain and expects to be ready for Opening Day.