June 16, 2024


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Phillies recommends Tommy John surgery to their best client, Andrew Painter

Phillies recommends Tommy John surgery to their best client, Andrew Painter

PHILADELPHIA — Andrew Painter, a frontrunner who captured everyone’s imagination at spring training when he had a legitimate chance to make the Phillies rotation as a teenager, is likely to undergo Tommy John surgery next week that would keep him out until 2025.

“I feel for him,” said Dave Dombrowski, the Phillies’ president of baseball operations. “He’s a tremendous young talent. He was right on the verge of becoming a big-league player. But, usually, players come back to those surgeries and do really well for themselves. He’s still very young. He’s going to have a long future ahead of him. Of course, it hurts the organization because he was He could be our contributor. But more importantly for him, you feel for him. But he’s young. He just turned 20.”

Painter has been sidelined since early March with a sprained ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow. The Phillies had worked at a deliberate pace on his rehabilitation. He suffered a setback earlier this month when the pain returned. The club said that an MRI scan showed that the painter’s ligament had healed. But the painter never felt right.

The Phillies delayed major surgery because their doctors thought it would be useful to see if a low-grade sprain on a suitable part of the ligament—the proximal side—could heal. Painter was advised all along by Dr. Neil Al-Atrash, the orthopedic surgeon of choice for most of baseball’s stars. Al-Atrash will meet with Al-Rassam on Monday in Los Angeles, and if he agrees to the Phillies doctors’ evaluation, the surgery is scheduled for July 26.

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Painter’s agent, Scott Boras, is said to be in agreement that Painter needs surgery, according to major league sources.

Had the painter had surgery in March, he could have returned to the field — at least a little bit — in 2024. “It’s likely,” Dombrowski said. He said he did not regret the conservative path Velez took because the painter’s partial tear was recovering. It just didn’t heal enough to give everyone involved peace of mind.

“You never know until you go through the process,” Dombrowski said.

The typical recovery time from Tommy John surgery is 12 to 18 months, with starting pitchers on the longer side of that schedule. If Painter had surgery in March, he could have returned to minor league games by July 2024. The difference now is that Painter will miss all of 2024.

Painter is now looking at two lost seasons. He’ll only be 22 in 2025, when he’ll look healthy and give it another try.

“He’s a young kid with a lot of talent and hard work, and very mature,” said Phillies manager Rob Thompson. “We thought we could get him through and he seemed to be recovering a bit, but the symptoms were there.”

According to several team officials, the Phillies had a three-year plan for Painter to increase his workload even if he was doing so while in the majors. They weren’t planning on treating him as a “typical” big-league starter in 2023 or 2024. That meant skipping inning starts or boundaries or some other creative solution. But he was going to be a worker. Now, it isn’t.

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The club will have to decide whether to keep free agent Aaron Nola after this season, and not having Painter in the immediate mix could affect how the Phillies think about Nola, who turned 30 in June. Painter’s injury wouldn’t cause them to rush Mick Abel, one of their top prospects, but it does add importance to developing him properly.

“As you progress, it will affect us as we look forward to next year,” Dombrowski said. “I have no idea. Aaron is a free agent, so should we re-sign him? Anything else going on. How do the young pitchers fare for the rest of the year?”

“I can’t talk about (the) long-term effects yet. I know we’ll be looking at (the painter) and thinking in 2025 he has a chance to be in our rotation at that time. But that’s a long time.”

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(Photo: Brace Hemmelgarn/Minnesota Twins/Getty Images)