It’s only March 13th as I type this, and regular season baseball is still over 2 weeks away for the Philadelphia Phillies, yet the starting rotation has already run into a couple of issues. Spring Training is a time to be cautious with the health of important players, especially when you had an extended postseason run like the Phillies did last year. Stack that on top of the offseason already being shorter due to last year’s lockout, and that can lead to a lot of extra stress on players’ bodies, especially pitchers. The Phils tuned up their rotation this offseason by adding Taijuan Walker in free agency, and the potential of having top pitching prospect in baseball Andrew Painter as the 5th starter looked like a real possibility when Spring Training starter… and then last week happened. It was not a good one for Phillies starters.
First, we got news that Andrew Painter was experiencing some discomfort in his throwing elbow, which threw some Phillies fans into a state of panic about their top prospect. It turns out, after a 2nd opinion from the best elbow surgeon in the country, that Painter in fact has a sprained UCL that should sideline him for over a month. That effectively ends the 19-year-old phenom’s chances of making the opening day roster, opening the door for Bailey Falter, but closing the door on one of the more interesting storylines of the spring. While it’s not a huge loss considering that Painter has never thrown a pitch at a level higher than AA, it’s a concerning first injury for a young player with a lot of expectations for the future.
Not only is Spring Training currently ongoing, but the World Baseball Classic has kicked off, with numerous Phillies competing. Ranger Suarez was scheduled to pitch for Venezuela in the tournament, but was recalled by the Phillies due to some tightness in his forearm on his throwing side. Now, according to Suarez’s comments since returning to Clearwater, the issue isn’t presumed to be serious. On the other hand, any arm tightness or discomfort for one of your starters, especially this early in the year, deserves a healthy amount of concern. It would be surprising to see Suarez miss anything close to as much time as Painter is scheduled to, but it may affect his ability to pitch early on in the season. I wouldn’t be super concerned about either pitcher long term, but these early issues could be a warning sign for how difficult it is to stay healthy this year with such a taxing season in 2022.