Phillies' Jake Arrieta to undergo season-ending elbow surgery

SEASON OVER: In this file photo, Philadelphia Phillies starting pitcher Jake Arrieta works against the Chicago Cubs at Wrigley Field in Chicago in May 2019. Arrieta, due to a recurring bone spur in his right elbow, will have season-ending surgery. Armando L. Sanchez/Chicago Tribune/Tribune News Service

PHILADELPHIA – Jake Arrieta has had enough.

Six weeks after revealing the recurrence of a bone spur in his right elbow, Arrieta will undergo an imaging test Thursday that he’s confident will be the precursor for season-ending surgery within the next week or two. The 33-year-old right-hander is expected to be ready for spring training with the Phillies after having the bony growth removed.

“I think that the time is right to make it happen now and get a guy in the rotation that has pitched really well for us and give him an opportunity to get back to the form where he was at earlier in the season,” Arrieta said Wednesday after being placed on the 10-day injured list. “I think we’ll be in good hands.”

Zach Eflin will take Arrieta’s spot in the rotation and start Saturday night against the San Diego Padres.

Arrieta is 8-8 with a 4.64 earned-run average in the second season of a three-year, $75 million contract with the Phillies. He has been compromised for most of the season by the bone spur, which restricts his ability to extend his arm and command certain pitches, specifically his curveball and change-up. It also prevents him from pitching deep into games.

For weeks, Arrieta has been taking his usual turn in the rotation, pitching through an injury that he said “hurts every day.” But the final straw came Sunday night in San Francisco when he said he was unable to throw off-speed pitches and got knocked around by the Giants for five runs on seven hits in only three innings with little more than his fastball.

“I wanted to try and make it work for as long as possible while I could remain effective and help the team,” Arrieta said. “I think after my start in San Francisco I realized I’m not able to give the team what it needs.”

Arrieta has dealt with this injury before. In 2011, he stopped pitching in August, had the bone spur taken out, and was part of the Baltimore Orioles’ season-opening rotation. Dr. Lewis Yocum, the surgeon who performed Arrieta’s previous spur removal, died in 2013. Arrieta said he wants either Yocum’s protege, Dr. Neal ElAttrache, or Phillies team physician Dr. Michael Ciccotti to do this surgery.

“It’s going to be pretty straightforward,” Arrieta said. “I’m pretty comfortable with the process after the recovery. It’s not a long period of time where I’ll be down for. I’ll probably miss the remainder of the season, but there’s no doubt that I’ll have a completely healthy offseason going into next year.”

Manager Gabe Kapler said he believes the Phillies made the best of Arrieta’s situation by monitoring his workload conservatively. In five starts before Sunday, Arrieta had a 3.28 ERA, although he was unable to pitch beyond the fifth inning.

“We gave this a chance to work, and every fifth day he, despite being uncomfortable and not being able to execute his pitches the way he wanted to, gave us everything he had,” Kapler said. “It was genuinely a heroic effort in a lot of ways.”

Arrieta almost certainly won’t use the opt-out clause in his contract after this season. He will make $20 million next year. He has a 4.26 ERA in 55 starts since signing with the Phillies and has been worth 2.9 Wins Above Replacement, according to Fangraphs, making him another cautionary tale for the perils of signing free-agent pitchers in their 30s.

“It’s probably not going to happen,” Arrieta said of triggering his opt-out clause. “Still want to be here, though. I can tell you that.”

Eflin was the Phillies’ best pitcher for the first two months of the season. He was sent to the bullpen in July after posting a 10.46 ERA in his last six starts.

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