The Phillies announced a batch of injuries to reporters, including Matt Gelb of The Athletic (Twitter links). Left-hander Cristopher Sánchez and right-hander Nick Nelson have both been shut down, due to triceps soreness and a moderate hamstring injury, respectively. Catcher Garrett Stubbs is headed for an MRI on his sore right knee while fellow backstop Rafael Marchán hasn’t played in eight days and can’t currently hit due to a bruised right hamate.
Sánchez, 26, has made just 22 major league appearances thus far in his career, but he notched a strong 3.14 ERA in Triple-A last year. He struck out 24.4% of batters faced at that level, walked just 8.4% and got grounders at a very strong 62% clip.
As of a few weeks ago, he wasn’t expected to be a key piece of the club’s rotation, but some recent developments have thinned out the club’s depth in that department. Andrew Painter has been shut down with a UCL sprain while Ranger Suárez has been dealing with some forearm tightness. Painter will be shut down for four weeks, taking him out of consideration for the Opening Day rotation. Suárez, meanwhile, has been throwing but it’s still unclear if he’ll be ready for the start of the season. Gelb also relays that the club is encouraged by his progress but his overall timelines are still murky.
The club should still have a strong front of their rotation, with Aaron Nola, Zack Wheeler and Taijuan Walker taking three spots. Bailey Falter previously seemed like he would have to compete with Painter for a spot but that’s no longer the case, likely pushing him into the mix. The fifth spot could go to Suárez if he’s healthy enough to take it. If not, Sánchez would have been in the mix to jump in there but that’s probably not on the table any longer. The club hasn’t provided a timeline on his expected absence but the fact that he has been shut down from throwing with just two weeks until Opening Day isn’t encouraging.
If none of Painter, Suárez or Sánchez are available, the Phils have Michael Plassmeyer and James McArthur on their 40-man roster. Arthur has yet to reach Triple-A and only made 13 Double-A starts last year due to injury. Plassmeyer has two big league appearances and tossed 128 1/3 Triple-A innings last year with a 4.21 ERA.
In the case of Nelson, he was going to be in the mix for a job in the club’s bullpen. He tossed 68 2/3 innings for the club last year with a 4.85 ERA, 22.5% strikeout rate, 11.8% walk rate and 39.8% ground ball rate. It doesn’t seem as though his injury is too severe, though he’s been shut down for the moment. As a reliever, he’ll have an easier time getting back into game shape than a starter like Sánchez.
In terms of the catching situation, those two ailments are noteworthy for the club since they have just three backstops on their 40-man roster. J.T. Realmuto has a lock on the starting job but the Phils will need a backup. Stubbs and Marchan would be the likely candidates for such a job, since they are the other two on the roster, but they are both question marks now due to these setbacks.
Stubbs, 30 in May, was acquired from the Astros prior to the 2022 campaign and ended up having a nice season as Realmuto’s backup. He got into 50 games and hit .264/.350/.462 for a wRC+ of 128. He was recently participating in the World Baseball Classic for Team Israel but departed when this knee issue popped up. Marchan, 24, only has 23 games of big league experience and was likely ticketed for more time in the minors behind Realmuto and Stubbs.
At this point, the path forward for both players is still unclear but there are concerns in both cases. Stubbs’ injury is significant enough to require an MRI while Marchan has already been out of action for over a week. Even if he suddenly heals up, he’ll need some time to get back into game shape. If the Phils eventually need someone else to step up and take on the backup job, they have a few catchers in camp as non-roster invitees, including Aramis Garcia and John Hicks.