July 10, 2019
After having a week off for the All-Star break, injured Phillies starter Jake Arrieta will not be headed to the injured list due to a bone spur in his throwing elbow. Instead, the veteran righty will take the hill this weekend when the Phillies host the Nationals in their first series of the second half.
Over the weekend, it was reported that the injury could cause Arrieta (8-7, 4.67 ERA) to be shut down for the season in order to undergo corrective surgery, although the team had been hoping to push the surgery until after the season. Manager Gabe Kapler confirmed to Angelo Cataldi and the WIP Morning Show on Wednesday that the team will continue to monitor Arrieta, at least for one more start, as he undergoes more scans on his pitching arm.
Kapler also confirmed what Arrieta told reporters after his last start against the Mets, when he hit three batters and nearly got into a fight with Todd Frazier. The injury is messing with his mechanics.
Here's exactly what Kapler had to say, via SportsRadio 94 WIP:
"Jake's elbow is limiting his ability to get into certain positions, so to some degree yes," Kapler said on Wednesday, when asked if the bone spur is one of the reasons Arrieta is struggling.
"He's having a harder time getting extended the way he normally does, especially on that curveball. This is limiting his ability to throw the ball where he wants to throw it. All of that said, Jake is a competitor and for the Phillies, it's always worth considering if Jake at 85 percent of himself is a better option than what we have at Triple-A. It's not terribly uncommon for veteran pitchers to successfully pitch with issues like this one. So as of now, Jake will make his start of us against the Nationals and we're going to support him."
Kapler admitted Arrieta's next start will go a long way in determining his long-term status.
"Yeah, we'll get some scans and we'll take a look," Kapler said of Arrieta's long-term status. "I think what will give us the best indication is how he feels in his next start." [94wip.radio.com]
Unfortunately, it's been those struggles locating his curveball — and the changeup for that matter — that have really led to Arrieta's recent struggles.
Gabe Kapler said on WIP that Jake Arrieta's bone spur has affected the way he throws his curveball.— Matt Breen (@matt_breen) July 10, 2019
Arrieta's first 11 starts: Breaking balls for 26.94% of pitches, opponents slugged .397 against it
Arrieta's last 7 starts: Breaking balls for 27.32%, .711 slugging against it.
Arrieta admitted that he was having trouble locating his pitches, and that the problem has been lingering for a few weeks now. Not only has that been visible when watching the 33-year-old pitch, it shows in his stats too. Arrieta has failed to pitch past the sixth inning in any of his last seven starts (since May 25) and has posted a 6.63 ERA over that time. Furthermore, he's only pitched more than six innings once since April 17.
Clearly, that's not what you want out of a pitcher who's making $25 million this season.
Of course, news that Arrieta is making his start against the Nats does not mean that he's suddenly healed, and the team could still opt to shut him down after this weekend. Given the nature of the injury, Arrieta isn't going to damage his elbow any more by trying to pitch through it. And with an important trade deadline looming, Matt Klentak and Co. likely want to know what they can realistically expect out of Arrieta before they decide whether or not to be buyers.
Because the Phillies have so many holes to fill at the deadline, they'll need to be cautious. And Arrieta landing on the injured list, on the surface, might seem like a clear indication that the Phillies will be buying. But the loss of Arrieta would further decimate an already struggling rotation, and it might be the proverbial straw that breaks the camel's back. Maybe, with Arrieta, the Phillies would be able to put together a patchwork rotation that can get this team into the postseason. Then again, maybe not, due to his injury-related struggles. But without Arrieta, the Phillies would likely need two top-end starters (and a whole bunch more) if they hope to right the ship.
And that might not be worth it.
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