【N.J】 Teen phenom hoping to avoid surgery on his elbow – New Jersey News

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CLEARWATER, Fla. — The long-awaited Phillies medical update on Andrew Painter arrived Friday, and it’s not the best news. It also isn’t the worst.

Painter has a sprain in his ulnar collateral ligament, and the 19-year-old prospect will rest for four weeks to see if he can avoid “Tommy John” surgery.

Painter had an MRI-arthrogram March 3 which revealed what manager Rob Thomson took pains to call a “mild sprain.” That diagnosis by team doctors was confirmed in a consultation with Dr. Neal ElAttrache, the surgeon who performed Bryce Harper’s Tommy John procedure in November.

“Obviously, it’s a bummer,” Painter told media at BayCare Ballpark. “You want to stay healthy, but at the end of the day, we’ve got to do what’s right for the long-term. It’s a long season. We’ve got to take the precautions now and make sure I’m healthy for the middle and the end of the year.”

The sprain means a degree of stretching and/or minor tear in the ligament. Severe tears require reconstruction, which is the Tommy John procedure.

Like Harper, who tore the UCL in his right elbow last year, the Phillies will try to rest Painter to see if it heals, then re-evaluate him as he begins a light throwing program. The four weeks are from the date of his last outing, March 1. The treatment plan does not include platelet-rich plasma injections, which Harper had last year in his unsuccessful bid to avoid going under the knife.

Painter reported a “tender” feeling one day after his outing against Minnesota. He said nothing felt amiss during that start. Finalizing a diagnosis has taken a week, a process of patience for Painter.

“It’s been interesting,” he said. “There’s been a lot of concerns and we’ve been waiting a little bit. But I’ve been fine. I haven’t been too worried about it. With our medical staff and everyone’s that had a say in this, they’re very experienced and they know what they’re doing.”

All things considered, Thomson feels OK with the diagnosis. UCL strains don’t automatically lead to Tommy John – one example is Aaron Nola, who was shut down in August 2016 with a low-grade UCL strain. He avoided surgery and has become an All-Star workhorse since.

Nola sought out Painter when he heard about the younger pitcher’s issues last week and shared his experience, which included eight weeks off (it was the end of the season) and a PRP injection.

“He’s 19. Nineteen-year-old bodies heal a lot quicker than 29-year-old bodies nowadays,” Nola said. “I pray for him, I hope everything works out, hope he doesn’t have to get surgery, hope he heals really quick and it’s nothing super big.”

“This is a common thing,” Painter said. “Other people have experienced this. They know what we’re doing is right.”

Painter is the Phillies’ top prospect and ranked by MLB.com as the sixth best in baseball. He went 6-2 with a 1.48 ERA last year in Single A and Double A, striking out 155 batters and walking 25 in 103.2 innings. He had been competing for the fifth spot in the rotation.

Given his age and potential, it’s possible this could help the Phillies later in the season. Painter will be on an innings limit so early in his career, and innings he misses in April might be available come September and (the Phillies hope) October.

For the rest of spring, Painter will be positioning himself for when he’s able to throw again.

“It’s just staying on top of the recovery process and make sure I do everything in my power to make sure this recovery goes as well as planned,” he said. “And then just try to get on the mound whenever the time is right.”

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