CLEARWATER, FL — An MRI scan on March 3 revealed that 19-year-old Phillies pitcher Andrew Painter had a sprained proximal ulnar collateral ligament, according to the Phillies. Al-Rassam sought a second opinion from Dr. Neil Al-Atrash, who confirmed the presence of a UCL torsion. The pitcher will rest for four weeks and then begin a mild hurling progression, according to the team.
The 19-year-old right-handed pitcher hasn’t thrown since Wednesday, March 1, when he made his first major league start for Grapefruit against the Twins. He came into Phillies camp the next day with a “tenderness” on his right elbow.
Painter was the leading contender for the Phillies’ job as a fifth starter this spring, and immediate president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski said he would keep a younger pitcher. Painter would become the first 19-year-old player to join the Phillies since Mark Davis in 1980. Painter turns 20 on April 10.
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“I have extensive studies on young pitchers of top speed at a young age,” said Painter agent Scott Boras. “Andrew knows and understands that his development requires great attention and patience, so his rare skill extends throughout his long MLB career.”
Despite the injury, Painter was around the Phillies’ spring training complex in Clearwater. He’s been in and out of the Phillies’ big league club every day, often sitting in the dugout during games. This past Tuesday morning, he was at Robin Roberts Stadium watching his former major league teammates hit batting practice.
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The Phillies are trying to play the long game with their first-round draft pick in 2021. They don’t see any sense in rushing a pitcher that has a roof as high as a painter’s. He dominated every step of his development, from rookie league to double-A. He allowed just 18 earned runs across three levels in 2022, with 155 strikeouts.
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There are cautionary tales to point out — like Rick Porcello, Madison Bumgarner, and Felix Hernandez — who debuted at 19 or 20, did well until 28 or 29 seasons, and then weren’t the same. The hope is that the painter will not only outgrow his age of 28 or 29, but will dominate thereafter.
“We’re still trying to get all the information together,” Phillies manager Rob Thomson said of Painter on Tuesday. “He’s an important guy in our organization. Young, big prospect, we just want to make sure the information is correct. We’ll give it to you at that point.”
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