Ranger Suarez is bringing joy to Phillies fans on 2 continents


There will be una fiesta pequeña in the town of Pie de Cuesta when Ranger Suarez takes the mound for the Phillies in Arizona on Wednesday night.

It has been this way ever since Suarez moved into the Phillies' starting pitching rotation on August 2.

Family and friends gather at the pitcher's home back in Venezuela and cheer for their man.

So far, there's been much to hoot and holler about. Suarez has made three starts in his transition from the bullpen to the starting rotation. He's allowed just one run in 10 innings and, most importantly, the Phillies are 3-0 in his starts.

"He brings a lot of joy to his family," says Diego Ettedgui, an aide to the team's Spanish-speaking players and, like Suarez, a native of Venezuela. "He's shown me some of the videos of them watching games. Whenever he strikes out someone or makes a big pitch, everybody goes crazy. They are very proud of him."

Among the group of fans back home are Suarez' mom, Mairin, his sister Rangerlin, brothers Rosmer and Rainer, and his longtime girlfriend, Joseanny, and their two children, daughter Sofia, 3, and son Dominick, who turned 1 three weeks ago. 

It's a whole new world these days. The family has been unable to travel to the States because of visa issues.

"Thank God for FaceTime," said the pitcher, who'll turn 26 next week.

Suarez knows all too well the new world we live in, the COVID world. He was making a strong showing in spring training 2020 and might have been on his way to winning the Phillies' fifth starter's job, when the pandemic hit and closed down everything, including baseball.


Suarez stayed in Florida and eventually came down with the illness. He did not have a bad case, a few days of fever and some headaches, he said. He spent a month alone in a Clearwater hotel room. He was not allowed to leave his room and occupied his time playing video games. A team official dropped test kits outside his door every few days until he registered consecutive negative tests. He was unable to travel back home to Venezuela for the birth of his son.

"It was terrible," he said in English.

There was one positive, though.

He ordered his meals through an app on his phone.

"I had Chipotle every day," he said, laughing. "I love Chipotle. Love Chipotle."

Suarez is the epitome of tranquilo, as they say in Spanish. He is a chill dude, as they say in English. He is calm. Poised. Nothing rattles him. He's low maintenance. Go with the flow. He has not taken an apartment in Philadelphia. No need to. He stays at a hotel in town.

"I just want to sleep," he said.

Suarez has always had this go-with-the-flow attitude. He's always been able to adjust on the fly. This approach to life is what brought him to the pitcher's mound in the first place.

As a kid, he played basketball, volleyball, soccer and baseball. He was good at all of them, but mostly soccer. He was an excellent midfielder. He was also a dandy center fielder on the diamond but didn't have the bat to match.

One day, when he was 14 or 15, he was playing for a team in his town. There was no coach. No fancy uniforms. No beautifully manicured field. Just kids playing baseball.

"We don't have a pitcher," one of Suarez' teammates told him. "Can you do it?"

More than a decade later, and a continent away, Suarez laughed as he told the story about the first time he pitched.

"I threw nine innings," he said. "I didn't care if I played center field or pitched. I just wanted to play."

Suarez stayed on the mound and eventually caught the eye of some of the local scouts or buscones. As his 16th birthday approached and he became eligible to sign with a big-league club, the A's took a peek at him. So did the Yankees. The Phillies brought him over to their academy in Valencia. He threw a couple of times and was signed for $25,000. To put that into perspective, the Phillies selected 18-year-old pitchers Mick Abel and Andrew Painter in the first round of the last two drafts and their signing bonuses totaled $8 million.

Suarez was not driven by money. He just wanted a chance. He took his 86-mph fastball and his fundamentally sound delivery off to the Phillies academy in Venezuela and spent three years there, benefitting from instruction. His fastball velocity steadily rose as he grew physically and he developed a changeup and breaking pitches. He finally got to the States in 2016 and pitched a no-hitter in the low minors.


On the way up, team officials always liked Suarez' swagger and the confidence with which he pitched. He didn't overthink things. He was very athletic.

After a brief look as a starter in the majors in 2018, Suarez was needed in the bullpen in 2019 and pitched quite well, going 6-1 with a 3.14 ERA in 37 games. Expectations soared for Suarez in 2020, but COVID turned that into a lost season for him.

The Phillies made additions to the rotation and the bullpen this past offseason. Suarez was late getting to spring training because of a visa issue and when he got there, a minor quadriceps injury set him back. He started the season at the alternate site, came up in May, pitched well as a long man in the bullpen and eventually migrated to closer, where he did the job no one else could. His desire to start, however, never dissipated, nor did the team's need for starting pitching. The July trade for closer Ian Kennedy and the good work done by Hector Neris and Archie Bradley in setup roles led management to ask Suarez if he'd be willing to transition back to starter right in the middle of the season.

He slept on it.

Of course, he'd do it.

It was just like that day as a teenager when his teammate asked him if he could pitch.

"I just want to play," he said. "Let's go."

Suarez' willingness to fill any role -- and do it with a smile on his face -- has endeared him to teammates. Both Bradley and Bryce Harper have gushed about Suarez' good nature and team-first attitude.

"I just love his demeanor," Harper said. "When we get into the postseason, he's going to be a big, big player for us. He could be one of the reasons why we win it."

Bradley has called Suarez "a savior" for all the roles he's filled on the pitching staff. He added, in so many words, that the relievers feel an intense obligation to protect the leads Suarez has given them since moving to the rotation because he has been so unselfish in answering whatever call the team puts out.

It all rolls off Suarez' back.

It's just pitching. That's all he wants to do. And he's doing it quite well.

At the hotel he calls home in Philadelphia, a man stopped him in the lobby the other day.

"Hey, are you Ranger Suarez?" the man asked.

The pitcher smiled and stopped for a picture.

"I'm just enjoying every moment," he said.

And so are the folks back home.

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