CLEARWATER, Fla. — Pitching phenom Andrew Painter has a sore elbow and the Phillies are holding their breath.
Two days after making his spring training debut, Painter told the team that his right elbow was “a little tender,” manager Rob Thomson said Friday. Rather than go through his workday between starts, baseball’s consensus top pitcher left BayCare Ballpark and went for testing. He didn’t return until after the Phillies’ 6-3 loss to the Detroit Tigers.
Thomson declined to elaborate on what type of test was being performed, but said the Phillies are awaiting the results.
READ MORE: Phillies phenom Andrew Painter’s upbringing included workouts (and hoops) with Max Scherzer
“We’ll have more information (Saturday) on that,” Thomson said. “That’s all I can say at the moment.”
Painter, a 19-year-old right-hander, is competing for the last spot in the starting rotation — and might even be the favorite for the job. If he is unable to start the season on time, left-hander Bailey Falter would be the main candidate for the fifth start.
In his first start to spring training, Painter allowed a run in two innings and threw 29 pitches Wednesday against the Minnesota Twins in Fort Myers, Fla. Thomson remarked after that game that Painter threw a first-pitch fastball to all eight batters.
Painter threw 19 warmers against the Twins, passing at 99 mph with back-to-back pitches against star hitter Carlos Correa. He didn’t throw any curveballs or changes, but shuffled a cutter he only recently picked up.
“Maybe we threw too many fastballs, but he’s got a good fastball,” pitching coach Caleb Cotham said Friday before Thomson disclosed Painter’s elbow pain. “It was just him being him. We don’t do a lot of game planning. It’s more just, ‘Go out and do what you’re doing.’ You could always say, ‘Hey, we should have done this or that.’ But it was pretty good. It is as advertised. And he will be better.
When asked directly if Painter got off his first start without a hitch, Cotham replied, “Yeah.” But he noted the Phillies plan to use the March 8 and March 13 bye days to space out Painter’s departures.
It’s clear now that any changes to Painter’s schedule may involve more than just days off.
READ MORE: How the Phillies are creating a roadmap to get the most out of Andrew Painter now and in the long term
Painter impressed his older teammates throughout camp with his talent and maturity.
“He has a live fastball. It’s easy,” starting veteran Taijuan Walker said. “And for him to be only 19 too, it’s very impressive the way he carries himself, the way he handles his business. He’s going to be really special.
Painter is trying to be the first 19-year-old to break camp with the Phillies since Larry Christenson in 1973. If he starts before his birthday on April 10, he would be the first teenage pitcher to start a game for the team . since Mark Davis in 1980.
For now, though, the Phillies are just hoping for positive news on the condition of Painter’s elbow.