The safe move would have been to keep Ranger Suárez in the bullpen. But by turning him back into a starter two weeks ago, the Phillies balanced their short-term interests with a long-term goal.

In deciding to change Suárez’s role, the Phillies will say they believed he could boost the back of the rotation down the stretch. It was a low bar considering the alternatives were Matt Moore, Vince Velasquez, and Chase Anderson. And in three starts so far, including Thursday’s sweep-averting 2-1 win over the Dodgers, the 25-year-old lefty has allowed one run in 10 innings.

Really, though, the Phillies couldn’t say for certain. Suárez hadn’t made a start in the majors since the season finale in 2018. The best way to find out was to turn him loose as a starter. If he continues to be effective as his pitch count climbs from 33 in his first start to 61 in his second, 82 against the Dodgers, and likely 90 next Tuesday in Arizona, the rotation could be fully stocked for 2022, with Zack Wheeler, Aaron Nola, Zach Eflin, newcomer Kyle Gibson, and Suárez all under control.

Bryce Harper is already casting his vote for next year’s fifth starter.

“[Suárez] is one of our five,” Harper said, “and he should be for however many years we have him.”

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— Scott Lauber (extrainnings@inquirer.com)

The rundown

Archie Bradley spoke for many of the Phillies when he said Suárez has been nothing short of a “savior” this season.

Harper’s season — and the NL MVP push that it is inspiring — are reminders that RBIs don’t mean much as an indicator of a player’s impact, as David Murphy writes.

Joe Girardi got heated — ejected, too — after two blown strike calls by home-plate umpire Alfonso Márquez in the ninth inning.

The Phillies won’t have a lefty in the bullpen Friday night against the Reds, who have dangerous left-handed hitters Joey Votto and Jesse Winker. But Bailey Falter might not be far from returning from COVID-19. He threw a scoreless, 20-pitch inning Thursday for triple-A Lehigh Valley.

Important dates

Tonight: Wheeler opens series vs. Cincinnati’s Tyler Mahle, 7:05 p.m.

Tomorrow: Moore is probable starter vs. Reds’ Luis Castillo, 4:05 p.m.

Sunday: Nola faces Sonny Gray in series finale, 1:05 p.m.

Monday: Day off for Phillies.

Tuesday: Phillies begin six-game road trip in Arizona, 9:40 p.m.

Stat of the day

Héctor Neris fanned Corey Seager on a splitter in the sixth inning Thursday and moved past Tug McGraw into third place on the franchise list for strikeouts by a reliever with 484, two behind Ryan Madson.

Ron Reed holds the Phillies reliever record with 519 strikeouts. Neris, who is eligible for free agency after the season, is on pace to finish this year with 87, which would leave him 10 shy of Reed’s mark.

From the mailbag

Send questions by email or on Twitter @ScottLauber.

Question: Has [Rhys] Hoskins said when he will feel like playing again? This guy loses too much time, and it’s time to move on while he is still worth something. — Frank P., via email

Answer: Thanks, Frank, but I have to disagree on this one. Since Hoskins made his major-league debut on Aug. 10, 2017, he has played in 508 of the Phillies’ 550 games (92.4%). He’s among only 20 major-leaguers to play at least 500 games in that span. Say what you want about his inconsistency at the plate or his defense at first base, but he doesn’t miss many games.

In any case, the Phillies are optimistic that Hoskins will be ready to return from his strained groin Tuesday in Arizona. That’s the first day he will be eligible for reinstatement from the injured list.