If Jake Arrieta pitches again this season, it won’t be until the playoffs, according to Phillies manager Joe Girardi.
An MRI exam this week confirmed Arrieta’s suspicion that he suffered a Grade 1 strain of his right hamstring. The injury occurred Tuesday night on his 97th and final pitch, a changeup that hit New York Mets shortstop Andres Gimenez in the thigh.
“Our hope is to get him back for the playoffs,” Girardi said Thursday. “I think it’s kind of wishful thinking for the regular season.”
The Phillies put Arrieta on the 10-day injured list, which leaves him eligible to return for the second-to-last game of the season. But the injury is nearly identical to his hamstring strain late in the 2017 season with the Chicago Cubs. In that case, he threw a bullpen session before he was ready and wound up missing 17 days.
Girardi said Arrieta likely would continue lightly throwing “from a chair or from one knee” to keep his arm moving. If his hamstring heals in time for the postseason – and assuming the Phillies qualify as one of the top eight teams in the National League – it’s not yet clear if he will be used in a starting role. Arrieta hasn’t made a relief appearance since 2012 with the Baltimore Orioles.
“I think you have to see what the health of your whole team is before you can make any decisions,” Girardi said. “And his health is obviously really important through that.”
Arrieta is eligible for free agency after the season. The 34-year-old right-hander is 4-4 with a 5.08 ERA in nine starts this season and 22-23 with a 4.36 ERA in 64 starts since signing a three-year, $75 million contract in 2018. He dealt with a knee injury late in the 2018 season, season-ending bone spurs in his elbow last year, and now this.
The Phillies haven’t decided how they will replace Arrieta on Sunday at home against the Toronto Blue Jays. They could recall a pitcher from the Lehigh Valley training site, where lefty Cole Irvin and right-handers Ramon Ross and Adonis Medina are at least somewhat stretched out.
In other pitching injury news, rookie Spencer Howard (right shoulder stiffness) will be reevaluated after four days without throwing. He could begin a light throwing program, although it doesn’t seem likely that he will be able to make a start before the end of the regular season.
Vince Velasquez has essentially replaced Howard in the rotation and is lined up to start Saturday against the Blue Jays.
Girardi had been hopeful that J.T. Realmuto (left hip flexor strain) might be ready to return by the weekend. It appears now that the catcher won’t play again until early next week.
After Thursday night’s game, Girardi said Realmuto took batting practice on the field and ran at half-speed. Although he didn’t have a setback, according to Girardi, he will need more time.
First baseman/outfielder Jay Bruce (strained left quadriceps) might be ready to return Friday.
Scott Kingery wasn’t in the lineup after crashing to the ground on an unusual play in the ninth inning Wednesday night. He ran in from second base to make a lunging tag of the Mets' Jeff McNeil in a rundown along the third-base line.
“He felt like he had made a tackle at the goal line,” Girardi said. “I think it was a jolt. He had a bunch of dirt in his eye. His eye was fairly red, and it was watering. I think it’s OK today, but the rest of his body’s pretty sore.”