Phillies: The Andrew Painter sore elbow non-story

On Day 6 of the Andrew Painter injury watch, honest Philadelphia Phillies fans had to admit to themselves they were becoming antsy. The business day ended Tuesday with, again, no further word from the team about tests done on the sore elbow of the young and promising righthander with the 99-mph fastball and devasting cutter in his arsenal.

This soreness arose on March 1 when Painter made his impressive spring debut against the Twins.

By roughly dinner time on Tuesday, Todd Zolecki, the writer covering the Phillies, went so far as to declare, “Multiple sources said that nobody has been told that Painter needs surgery,” and that another source had said “that ‘time is needed’ for him to recover.”

As is the case when any team doesn’t want beat writers to know anything, the time-needed opinion was attributed to neither a trainer nor a vendor working at BayCare Ballpark.

Manager Rob Thomson told reporters on camera that the Phillies were waiting to assemble “all the tests, all the information on the tests.” The team thought that was worth posting on their website.

The day crawled along Wednesday, March 8. A Phillies fan tweeted about Painter, “It’s not going to be good news.” A reply received read, “Duh.” Around noon, local sports talk radio played audio of Phillies GM Sam Fuld hoping that Painter’s setback was “a small blip on the radar.” Without specifics.

Andrew Painter was becoming annoying, and here’s why: While many Fightin’ fans love the story of a 19-year-old breaking spring training camp as a designated starter, is this even really a story (unless Painter actually needs Tommy John surgery)?

The tall right-hander is hardly the first MLB phenomenal talent at 19, who throws very hard, to have a sore elbow. More, the idea of set starters is as fraudulent a meaningful notion as sore-armed pitchers in their late teens are common.

For example, if I told you that a 1965 pitching staff started 10 different pitchers, how do you think their season went?

Pretty badly, many fans would guess, I’d bet, based on the notion of the ironman starters of yesteryear.

In fact, that staff lead the Dodgers to the World Series championship that year. True, four LA pitchers that year accounted for 145 starts out of 162, led by Sandy Koufax (41 starts) and Don Drysdale (42), but in 2022 the NL Champion Phillies also started 10 pitchers. Their top four starters accounted for only 118 games and even the top five only touched 134, but so what?

As Zolecki pointed out in another piece on Painter, the Phillies have “used no fewer than nine starters in any year since 2011.”

As long as Painter is not seriously injured, no one doubts he will start some games for the MLB Phillies this year, and that’s all that matters.

Being a designated starter is a sort of artificial construct, allowing old guys to boast about how tough the pitchers were back in the day. Yes, every team would now like five ironman starters who would eat up 32 games apiece, leaving only two games for anyone else to start, but that has never happened. Pitchers are unpredictable.

Moreover, currently, while teams are happy to point to durable starters, MLB never quite tests that durability for any number of years in a row except in a handful of pitchers. Starters now cost a lot of money.

Everyone in the “Phillies family” would like a full/durable season out of Andrew Painter in 2023, but it really doesn’t matter that much. As long as the docs aren’t amputating. The longer the details about the injury take to come out, though, the more likely the pitcher will be shut down for at least several weeks.

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