There is a wide open battle for the job of the number-five starter in the Phillies rotation and it officially started Wednesday with the debut of Andrew Painter. It continued Thursday when both Bailey Falter – somewhat of an incumbent – and prospect Griff McGarry both pitched against the Boston Red Sox.

Painter pitched well, but apparently suffered a setback when he reported to camp the day after his outing with a tender elbow. The team will undoubtedly be cautious with him and make absolutely sure that everything is okay before they allow him to pick up a baseball again, let alone pitch in a game. That leaves Falter, McGarry and Cristopher Sanchez as the options for the job.

Falter pitched well down the stretch last season for the Phillies and could have the inside track coming into camp, especially with Painter’s sore elbow. Falter was 6-4 with a 4.03 ERA. Between August 20 and September 13, Falter won five straight games and posted an ERA of 2.43. Over the final month of the season, Falter was 3-1 with a 3.37 ERA for the Phillies. In all, the team went 13-7 in the games that he started in 2023.

McGarry, 23, comes into the season as the 51st best prospect in baseball according to Baseball Prospectus. Between Jersey Shore and Reading, the right-hander made 19 starts and went 4-6, 3.18 before being promoted to Triple-A Lehigh Valley. With the IronPigs, McGarry pitched out of the bullpen and allowed eight earned runs in eight innings of work.

In their spring debuts, Falter gave up a solo home run in 1 1/3 innings, striking out two. He pitched out of a couple jams in the outing. McGarry had a much tougher outing, allowing five earned runs in 1/3 of an inning.

Sanchez has not made his spring debut with the Phillies and is somewhat of an underdog to get the job. He was bounced between Philadelphia and Lehigh Valley last season and made three starts and 12 relief appearances in the majors with a record of 2-2, 5.63. In his three starts, he went 2-1 with a 3.38 ERA. The 26-year-old lefty was 2-2, 3.14 in 14 Triple-A starts and one relief appearance.