Posted on August 14, 2019, by Bryan Zarpentine
After giving it his best shot, it appears that Philadelphia Phillies starter Jake Arrieta will bow out for the rest of the 2019 season. The club placed Arrieta on the 10-day Injured List Wednesday because of continued elbow problems. Surgery to address the issue appears imminent, likely ending his season.
Arrieta revealed in July that he’s been dealing with bone spurs in his right elbow that have made it difficult for him to pitch this season. He had been hoping to gut it out and help the Phillies in their quest for a playoff spot. But his performance has suffered in recent weeks, leading Arrieta to shut it down, even if it means ending his season early. If he ends up undergoing surgery to address the bone spurs, Arrieta said he will “probably” be done in 2019.
“I would have liked it to go differently,” Arrieta said Wednesday. “I would have liked to pitch the remainder of the season healthy, but it’s something that I really couldn’t control. The spur stayed pretty dormant for 7-8 years, and it decided to give me trouble and get to a size now where this is only option to me getting back to the pitcher that I am. And that’s OK. This is what I have to do.”
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In 24 starts for the Phillies this season, Arrieta is 8-8 with a 4.64 ERA. It’s his highest ERA since the 2013 season, prior to his breakout year with the Cubs in 2014. In his recent starts, it’s become clear that Arrieta is being bothered by the bone spurs. He’s allowed eight earned runs in 12 innings over his three starts in August. One could argue that Arrieta is causing more harm than good for the Phillies right now.
Philadelphia plans to move Zach Efflin into Arrieta’s spot in the rotation moving forward. Efflin was moved to the bullpen in late July and has pitched well in four outings as a reliever. Prior to that, Efflin was 7-11 with a 4.63 ERA over 20 starts. The 25-year-old has had plenty of bright spots this season, but he was an utter disaster as a starter in July, so there’s no telling what the Phillies will get out of him as he moves back into the rotation.
If Efflin fails to work out for the Phillies, the club doesn’t have many other options for Arrieta’s vacant spot. Philadelphia has brought in veteran lefties Drew Smyly and Jason Vargas to fill in the back end of the rotation behind Aaron Nola and Vince Velazquez. Smyly and Vargas have been helpful but aren’t locks to be reliable down the stretch.
Jerad Eickhoff, who’s working his way back from the IL, and Nick Pivetta are also options if Efflin struggles as a starter. However, neither has pitched well as a member of Philadelphia’s rotation this season. In short, the rotation could be problematic for the Phillies late in the season, as they are well short of having five reliable starters.
In a way, it’s good to have clarity on Arrieta’s situation rather than wondering about his health and status from start to start. However, his absence does put the Phillies in a precarious position heading down the stretch. The Phillies are two games out of a Wild Card spot but one of five teams within 3.5 games of that spot. Without a stable rotation, on top of the team’s other injuries, the Phillies have their work cut out for them if they hope to reach the postseason.