As the All-Star break draws to a close, now would seem like an appropriate time to look at the injury situation of several Phillies players.
Much of the planned starting pitching rotation that the club had built has collapsed due to varying health issues, which has led to the train-wreck of a rotation which the Phils are currently utilizing.
Chase Utley (Right ankle inflammation) – Stuck in the worst season of his career, hitting just .179 with 4 homeruns and 25 RBI, Utley was placed on the DL on June 23rd and then given a cortisone shot the following day.
Jun 13, 2015; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Phillies second baseman Utley (26) sits in the dugout before playing the Pittsburgh Pirates at PNC Park. (Photo Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports)
Now, “the Man” appears to be on track for a return to the team, beginning running and taking ground balls just a few days ago. Utley spoke briefly about his workout with the Philadelphia Inquirer’s Jake Kaplan, stating: “It felt great… ankle’s definitely in a better place than it was two weeks ago or three weeks ago.”
Further commenting on his return, Utley added, “There’s no exact date on it… but it’s a good sign that I’m able to run and take ground balls and feel very comfortable doing it.” However, Utley will not step back immediately into a starting role with the recent strong play of Cesar Hernandez.
GM Ruben Amaro is on record as stating that he believes Hernandez should remain the primary second basemen because he’s been the better player. Given that, Utley will likely get plenty of time once Hernandez comes back to Earth after posting a fairly high BABIP (.346) so far this season. Unfortunately, the Utley who we’ll see later this year is probably pretty close to the one we’ve already seen before his DL stint.
Jerome Williams (Left hamstring strain) – After being removed from a game when he hurt himself on an awkward play at home plate, Williams was sent to the DL on June 17. The starting pitchers is now well on his way to a return, and has he’s pitched in two rehab games so far, most recently this past Sunday.
On a 70-pitch limit, Williams went four innings while allowing four earned runs and six hits with 5 strikeouts and no walks. He then commented to the Asbury Park Press, “Staying healthy is the big thing in these rehab starts… And that’s the best thing to come out a start like this. Everything else is secondary, but now that I’ve stayed healthy, so you start to focus on locating pitches, and doing what you need to do to get back to the big leagues.”
The veteran righthander also claimed that there has been no specific timetable for a return, but it seems likely that he’ll be back shortly to help a rotation in need, or at least until the Phillies decide Aaron Nola is ready. According to a tweet by Mike Drago of the Reading Eagle, he does have at least one more rehab start in Reading this Friday.
Williams was terrible this year, producing a 6.43 ERA and allowing his opponents to hit .331 off him. I wouldn’t expect much different once his is activated, so his stay with the Phillies may not be for long.
Aaron Harang (plantar fasciitis) – Everything seemed to be going right for Harang for a while, then he fell to shambles in the second half of the first half. Harang then hit the DL with plantar fasciitis on July 2, perhaps offering a reason as to why he collapsed.
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Plantar fasciitis is an injury that exists when the foot has trouble absorbing shock, thus creating pain. It is fairly common with professional athletes because of the grind they put themselves through day in and day out. Carlos Ruiz experienced the injury a few years ago near the end of his career season. The injury can take only a few weeks to recover from if it isn’t too severe.
Ruben Amaro suggested that Harang would likely begin a rehab assignment soon after the All-Star break with hopes of getting back just before the trade deadline. If the reason for Harang’s collapse was truly trouble with his foot, he might be able to find himself a production level somewhere between the two pitchers he’s been so far, and work himself back into trade candidacy again during the August waiver period.
Cliff Lee (Elbow) – Things have not gone nearly as planned with Lee this season. He was expected to form a formidable 1-2 punch with Cole Hamels at the top of the Phillies rotation, and eventually prove a valuable trade chip. Having trouble with his common flexor tendon, Lee was shut down in mid-March and placed on the 60-day DL.
Fast forward to today; Amaro believes that Lee will begin throwing by the end of the month. The GM commented, “If it doesn’t go well, I would assume at that point he’s probably a guy that won’t be able to come back.”
Tom Verducci recently spoke about the possibility of this being the end of the line for the veteran lefty, who should’ve been throwing by now. Frankly, he probably doesn’t figure to be that good, so it hardly seems worth it to bring him back for a lost season. If only due to his history and fan popularity, he’s a storyline worth paying attention to, but there is a growing possibility that his career may be over.
Jonathan Pettibone (Shoulder) – Having undergone surgery for his torn labrum around this point last year, Pettibone was hopeful to rejoin the weak Phillies rotation at some point this season. Unfortunately, he never got fully healthy and is now set to have another shoulder surgery on July 22 with no timetable for his return. Reliever Mario Hollands underwent Tommy John surgery on April 8th, and should return at some point in the 2016 season.