CLEARWATER, Fla. — Jake Arrieta’s season could be delayed for the second straight year, as Gabe Kapler revealed Wednesday that the pitcher underwent minor knee surgery a few weeks before spring training.
Arrieta injured his left knee during an offseason weight-training workout, Kapler said. The manager labeled the surgery “just a meniscus cleanup” and said Arrieta has already thrown off the mound. The Phillies, because of scheduled off days, could get by with a four-man rotation until April 9.
“Arrieta is right on track to start,” Kapler said. “We may slow several guys down, and we might not come out with our five-man rotation at the start. But it’s not going to be due to injury. It’s going to be our progression plan.”
Arrieta missed the first week of last season after he signed with the Phillies just a month before opening day. Arrieta, who will turn 33 next month, had a 3.96 ERA last season in 31 starts and is entering the second-year of a three-year, $75 million contract. Arrieta, if healthy, projects to start the season as the team’s No. 2 starter, behind Aaron Nola.
“There were no structural issues,” Kapler said. “He's already been off the mound a couple of times. We're just going to be smart about his running and cutting progression.”
Kapler also said that righthander Jerad Eickhoff and outfielder Aaron Altherr are behind schedule because of injuries.
Eickhoff’s symptoms returned in January from the carpal tunnel syndrome he believed had been corrected by postseason surgery. Eickhoff, who did not pitch last season until September, had a follow-up with his doctor in January and was told he’s not a candidate for surgery. The Phillies will monitor his health next week after he throws a bullpen session.
Altherr suffered a right-foot injury at the end of last season and is limited to taking batting practice in the cage before the team does a “gradual build-up to running and cutting,” Kapler said.
“He might be a little behind in starting games, but we have no reason to think he won’t be fully ready to go for the season,” Kapler said.
Kapler, in his first year as manager, rallied his team last spring behind the theme of “Be Bold," which was introduced at a team dinner and printed the next morning on T-shirts. This year’s slogan, Kapler said, is “Shoulder to Shoulder.”
“We learned that when we want to achieve something great, we have to lean on the people around us," Kapler said. "The idea of standing shoulder to shoulder is what you see on the first-base line or the third-base line at the beginning of the season. You see our guys standing shoulder to shoulder together. If you look at our clubhouse and you see how it’s configured at home, all of our guys, their chairs are shoulder to shoulder. And when we fight together on the baseball field, we do it shoulder to shoulder.
"This is about us looking out for one another. It’s about stepping up to the plate for one another, it’s about fighting for each other and standing together as a team as a united, cohesive collection.”