Posted on July 7, 2019, by Bryan Zarpentine
As the first half of the season comes to an end, the Philadelphia Phillies are facing questions about the state of their starting rotation. The team confirmed on Sunday that starter Jake Arrieta is dealing with bone spurs in his pitching elbow. The announcement comes one day after Arrieta gave up five earned runs on 11 hits and hit three batters over 4.1 innings in a start against the Mets.
Arrieta notified the team that something was wrong prior to his last bullpen session. However, He told Phillies manager Gabe Kapler that he could pitch through it. Arrieta will be examined by the team’s medical staff over the all-star break. The team will then make a decision about how best to proceed, with all options being on the table at this point.
“Physically, I’m not in a great spot,” Arrieta said after Saturday’s start. “I think we’ll have a better idea over the next couple of days where I’m at. … Overall, I feel all right, but we’ll see.”
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It’s not just Arrieta’s most recent start that has the Phillies concerned. Despite going 3-1 over five starts, Arrieta had a rough month of June, posting a 5.65 ERA. In fact, over his last seven starts, Arrieta owns a 6.63 ERA. Five starts into the season, his ERA sat at 2.65 but has since ballooned to 4.67, so it’s not hard to see that something is wrong with Arrieta physically.
Arrieta dealt with a similar issue during the 2011 season when he was with the Orioles. He ended up having season-ending injury in August of that year. The following season, Arrieta had the worst season of his career, going 3-9 with a 6.20 ERA and only making 18 starts amidst demotions to triple-A and a move to the bullpen. Obviously, Arrieta was able to bounce back and ultimately won the Cy Young in 2015. But it did take him a while to come back from the surgery.
Not only is the 33-year-old Arrieta much older than he was in 2011, but he also has the option of opting out of his contract with the Phillies and becoming a free agent this winter. Even if he doesn’t, he’ll be a free agent after the 2020 season. On top of that, he’s playing for a team that’s relying on him to help them reach the postseason.
Despite his recent struggles, Arrieta would put a sizable hole in Philadelphia’s rotation if he opts for season-ending surgery to address the bone spurs in his elbow. Aaron Nola and Zach Efflin have led the rotation, but the Phillies have struggled to find consistency elsewhere. Arrieta’s postseason experience could also prove vital if the Phillies are able to get to the playoffs.
If the Phillies weren’t already in the market to acquire a starter before the deadline, they would be if Arrieta is lost for the season. They began Sunday in third place in the NL East and half a game out of a Wild Card spot. Odds are the Phillies will be in a tight playoff race the rest of the season. Losing Arrieta to injury, despite his struggles over the past month, would surely throw a wrench in Philadelphia’s plans and force the team to re-evaluate their rotation moving forward.