The Phillies want to catch the Braves to win the NL East, but Jake Arrieta’s injury is going to make that a huge challenge for Philadelphia.
Jake Arrieta hasn’t pitched like an ace for the Phillies this season, and that’s a big reason why they find themselves in third place in the NL East. That doesn’t mean Philadelphia can afford to be without the 33-year-old righty for any period of time if they want to catch the Braves this season.
Unfortunately, Arrieta’s status is very much up in the air right now. Manager Gabe Kapler recently revealed that his starting pitcher is dealing with a bone spur issue in his right (pitching) elbow. The organization hasn’t decided what course of treatment they’ll take with Arrieta, but surgery is an option.
Arrieta tried to pitch through a similar injury back in 2011 before ultimately electing to undergo season-ending surgery late in the season. Phillies medical officials will take part of the All-Star break to determine whether or not they will allow Arrieta to try to pitch through the injury again.
It’s not an exaggeration to say that the team’s playoff hopes may ride on Arrieta’s status. They already entered play on July 7 6.5 games behind Atlanta in the division. The Nationals’ position just a half-game ahead of Philadelphia only complicates matters for Kapler’s club.
The clearest route towards closing the gap for the Phillies would be to ride a hot stretch from their starting rotation. The plan heading into the season was for the trio of Arrieta, Aaron Nolan and Zach Efflin to carry the team during stretches where the offense wasn’t clicking. Thus far in the season, those three pitchers have been required to overproduce due to the struggles of Nick Pivetta and Jerad Eickhoff at the bottom of their rotation.
Losing Arietta for a significant stretch is going to put too much strain on Nolan and Efflin. Both have a ton of talent, but they can’t be required to win every start during the second half of the season. They might be good enough to keep the team afloat for a long stretch, but that’s not good enough for the Phillies. They’ll need to close the gap on the Braves during the second half. Treading water won’t help them reach the postseason.
When the Phillies spent big money on Bryce Harper this offseason there was a clear expectation that this team would be a serious factor in the playoffs. If Arrieta can’t get back soon, this season is going to be a real disappointment for Philadelphia.