Andrew Painter of the Phillies
Philadelphia skipper Rob Thomson sat in a hotel ballroom during the Winter Meetings this past December in San Diego and said top prospect Andrew Painter had a chance to break camp as a fifth starter.

Unfortunately, the 20-year-old was diagnosed in March with a sprained ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow and was shutdown for several weeks. He resumed throwing bullpens in June, but experienced soreness and was shutdown again. The organization now recommends he undergo Tommy John surgery, meaning his debut at Citizens Bank Park will not likely happen until 2025. 

"While he was able to return to throwing bullpens and follow-up imaging has shown interval healing in his elbow, over the last few weeks, he continues to be symptomatic upon examination," the Phillies said in a news release. 

"Considering the timing of the season and that Painter is still experiencing symptoms, the Phillies medical staff has recommended he undergo a right elbow UCL reconstruction with ulnar nerve transposition surgery." 

Painter will meet with Dr. Neil ElAttrache on Monday in Los Angeles for a consultation with the surgery tentativly scheduled for Wednesday. ElAttrache performed Bryce Harper's Tommy John surgery last November. 

"[Painter] was right on the verge of being a big-league pitcher," president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski said Wednesday. "But normally, these surgeries, the players come back and do well for themselves. He’s still very young and has a long future ahead of him. Of course, it hurts the organization and the team because he could have been a contributor for us. But more importantly, I feel for him." 

Though surgery was always an option for Painter, the Phillies elected to take a conservative approach in his rehab. An MRI earlier this month showed healing in the UCL, but the continued soreness concerned the Phillies' medical staff enough to recommend surgery. 

A first-round pick by Philadelphia in 2021, Painter was 6-2 with a 1.56 ERA across three levels in the minors in 2022. He whiffed 155 batters and walked 25 over 103 2/3 innings. 

The absence of Painter for 2024 means Dombrowski and Co. will have to put some additional thought into future plans for the starting rotation. Aaron Nola will be a free agent at the end of the year, and he's likely to command a premium on the open market. 

"As you go forward, it will affect us as we look forward to next year,” Dombrowski said. “I have no idea. Aaron [Nola] is a free agent, do we re-sign him? Whatever else takes place. How do our young pitchers progress the rest of the year? 

“I can’t really speak to the long-term (effects) as of yet. I know we’ll be looking at [Painter] and thinking in 2025 that he has a chance to be in our rotation at that time. But that’s a long time away."

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