Phillies top prospect Andre Painter, who underwent imaging on his elbow over the weekend after reporting discomfort, was diagnosed with a “right proximal ulnar collateral ligament sprain,” according to the team. He sought a second opinion from surgeon Dr Neal ElAttrache, who confirmed the diagnosis. Phillies medical staff and Dr. ElAttrache have recommended a four-week pitching hiatus, after which Painter will begin a “mild pitching progression.”
For one thing, any UCL injury to a pitcher is a brutal and ominous blow. The ulnar collateral ligament is the ligament that is replaced during Tommy John surgery, and a sprain indicates some degree of stretching and/or tearing, by definition. That said, Painter’s surgery should not yet be considered a fatality. Dr ElAttrache is one of the sport’s foremost surgeons and orthopedic experts, and he and the team apparently agree that the extent of the sprain is not severe enough to require immediate surgery. Time will tell if Painter is able to avoid going under the knife, but it’s at least good news that he hasn’t yet suffered a big enough tear to wipe out his entire 2023 season.
There are many examples of pitchers avoiding surgery even after being diagnosed with damage at UCL – Masahiro Tanaka, Erwin Santana, Anthony DeSclafani and Painter’s own teammate Aaron Nola among them. Of course, it’s fair to point out that the majority of UCL sprains eventually lead to surgery, whether it’s a Tommy John procedure (ligament replacement) or internal ligament splinting. current, which comes with a shorter recovery time but is only possible for some sprains (depending on the placement of the tear in the ligament and the severity of the tear).
For now, Painter’s shutdown rules him out of the running for the Phillies’ opening day rotation – a competition he played a starring role in when he was just 19. Painter was the 13th overall pick in the 2021 draft and climbed through the Phillies system to the dawn of MLB prep in less than two years. He pitched on three levels in 2022 – Class-A, Advanced Class-A and Double-A – working at a combined 1.56 ERA with a massive strikeout rate of 38.7%, a strong walk rate of 6.2 % and a small mark of 0.43 HR/9 through 103 2/3 frames. Baseball America and MLB.com rank Painter as the game’s top pitching prospect and one of the sport’s top six prospects.
That’s not the only bad news on the Phillies’ rotation front, either. left handed Ranger Suarezwho was on the Venezuela team roster at the World Baseball Classic, left the tournament and returned to the Phillies due to a strain in his left forearm, MLB.com’s Todd Zolecki tweeted This morning. The Phillies think the injury is minor and are just playing it safe, but it’s still a notable situation worth monitoring. He will undergo treatment with the club for the time being.
Suarez, 27, has solidified himself as a quality arm in the middle of the rotation behind aces Nola and Zack Wheeler in recent seasons. He started 29 games for Philadelphia in 2022, hitting a solid 3.65 ERA with a 19.5% strikeout rate, 8.8% walk rate and 55 rushed ball rate. 4%.
With Painter sidelined, left-handed Bailey Falter becomes the undisputed favorite for fifth in Philadelphia’s rotation behind Nola, Wheeler, Taijuan walker and – assuming he is healthy enough on opening day – Suarez. If Suarez And Painter are both sidelined to start the season, the Phillies will likely choose from a group including Christopher Sanchez, Michel PlassmeyerJames MacArthur and Prospects Mick Abel And Griff McGarry. MLBTR’s Anthony Franco took a look at every pitcher earlier in camp when profiling the Phillies’ No. 5 starting candidates.