TAMPA — The Phillies were eager to take a look at another of their young starting pitchers on Tuesday, but lefty Ranger Suarez's scheduled start against the New York Yankees was rained out.
Under first-year pitching coach Chris Young, the Phillies have taken a different approach with their top five starters this spring. Basically, the group is making the equivalent of a first start by pitching live batting practice to teammates.
The Phils will be ready to unveil the first of their projected starters on Saturday when Zach Eflin starts in Port Charlotte against the Tampa Bay Rays. Jake Arrieta will start Sunday in Fort Myers against the Minnesota Twins.
The Phillies are off on Monday. Aaron Nola and Nick Pivetta will piggyback each other and face the St. Louis Cardinals in Clearwater on March 5. That game will be broadcast on NBC Sports Philadelphia. Kapler has not announced an opening day starter, but Nola, who finished third in last year's NL Cy Young voting, is expected to get the nod.
Vince Velasquez will start on March 6 against the Toronto Blue Jays in Dunedin.
Kapler explained the Phillies' approach to getting the projected starting five ready for the season.
"We're building these guys up in intense, live BP sessions so we can ensure they get their work in," he said. "One of the things we've seen in past spring trainings is starters running higher pitch counts, and needing to come out of games without getting to their necessary workload to effectively build them up. By letting them build volume in these live BPs, we can safely control the environment. We feel that a consistent ramp-up period will lead to the best outcomes for our guys both from a strength and a health perspective. This is a roadmap that will have them ready to go deep into games in the opening week of the season.
"The obvious side benefit of all of this is that we get a long look at some of our up-and-coming arms in starting roles against major-league hitters."
Suarez made three starts in the majors for the Phillies last season and projects to open back in Triple A along with Cole Irvin, who will start Wednesday in Clearwater against the Twins.
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