SAN FRANCISCO -- For weeks, Jake Arrieta has gritted his teeth and tried to block out the pain of pitching with a marble-sized bone spur in his right elbow.
He might finally be willing to seek mercy.
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After giving up five runs on seven hits and barely surviving the third inning in the Phillies’ 9-6 loss Sunday night at Oracle Park, Arrieta said he would have to consider whether he will continue to pitch this season or succumb to surgery to remove the bone spur.
“I don’t necessarily want to make a decision right now,” Arrieta said as the Phillies packed for their cross-country flight home after a road trip in which they went 2-5 and slipped to fifth place in the National League wild-card race, two games out of the last playoff spot. “We’ll have the off-day [Monday] and maybe have a conversation on Tuesday.”
Arrieta revealed the existence of the bone spur after a July 6 start in New York in which he gave up six runs and 11 hits in 4 ⅔ innings against the Mets. It has affected his ability to command certain pitches or go deep into games. He hasn’t completed the sixth inning in a start since June 30, although it’s notable that he carried a 3.28 earned-run average in his last five starts into Sunday night.
The Giants tagged Arrieta for two runs on his first 19 pitches. The Phillies came back with three runs in the second inning and two in the third to give Arrieta a 5-2 lead, but he gave it right back on a solo homer by Mike Yastrzemski, a single to Evan Longoria, an RBI double by Scooter Gennett and an RBI single by Kevin Pillar.
According to Arrieta, the problem was a complete inability to throw off-speed pitches, which left him reliant on a fastball that averaged 91.5 mph.
“I lacked the ability to throw any off-speed for effect. They made me pay for that,” Arrieta said. "They waited me out. I threw the fastball pretty well, but when I needed to either get ahead or throw a breaking ball in a situation to get a swing and miss or weak contact or a called strike, I couldn’t do it.”
After his previous start, five nights earlier in Arizona, Arrieta said he wished he had been allowed to start the sixth inning rather than being lifted for a pinch-hitter with his pitch count at 80. The Phillies were hopeful of giving Arrieta a longer rope against the Giants.
Instead, it’s possible they will need to shut Arrieta down completely.