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Hittin’ Season #551: Fish Fry shows Phillies starters still stuck in spring

We shouldn’t be surprised by the starters’ slow start.

Philadelphia Phillies v Miami Marlins Photo by Kelly Gavin/Getty Images

Worried about the offense? Yeah, I’m with you.

It’s disconcerting the Phillies have lost six out of seven, including four out of five to the lowly Marlins and Rockies, with most of the blame falling squarely on the shoulders of an offense that was supposed to score runs as if they were bodily functions. And while the lineup hasn’t been awful (top-10 in batting average and OPS), they are struggling to score runs consistently. For a team whose sole design was to score enough runs to paper over some poor defense and a questionable bullpen, they’re simply not doing enough.

The other supposed strength of the team is the starting rotation and, when the team has a healthy and fully-charged Wheeler, Aaron Nola, Ranger Suarez, Zach Eflin and Kyle Gibson, it clearly should be.

Here’s the thing. Three-fifths of the rotation is not fully-charged. Eflin missed almost all of last season with continuing knee problems and wasn’t even supposed to be ready to start the season until May. But here he is, out on the mound, slinging to big league hitters at the start of the season. It’s a good thing, too, because Suarez got a late start this spring due to visa issues related to the lockout, and Wheeler suffered shoulder soreness during his off-season workout, then got sick down in Clearwater, preventing him from pitching to live, big league hitters all spring long.

Essentially, both Suarez and Wheeler are going through their spring training regimen right now, only they’re trying to do it facing big league hitters. It should surprise no one that Wheeler struggled with his fastball velocity, which was down 2-3 mph from his usual 97-98 mph, and that Suarez/Eflin haven’t been able to pitch deep into games just yet.

The Phils’ defense has been as advertised, production at third base, shortstop and center field have been spotty at best thus far, and the middle relief has been used far too much in the early going. But we expected much of that. We also should have expected some growing pains for the rotation for the first few weeks of the season, and that’s just what we’re seeing.

Of course, we didn’t expect the offense to be this disappointing and for Joe Girardi to have to re-make his lineup this quickly. One would think the bats will get it going, that Bryce Harper and Kyle Schwarber won’t continue to struggle the way they have, and that Hittin’ Season will return to Philadelphia sooner rather than later.

On the lastest edition of Hittin’ Season, Justin Klugh & I talked about the Phils’ first 10 games of the season, why we are seeing the things we’re seeing, and when it might turn around.