PHILADELPIA — Jake Arrieta will pitch Sunday afternoon.
At some point during that game against the Washington Nationals, the Phillies starter will probably be in pain.
X-rays confirmed Friday that Arrieta has a posterior medial bone spur in his pitching elbow. He’s determined to push through it.
The question confronting him and the Phillies: Is it realistic to expect him to last the season?
“Some days are OK. Some days are a little more difficult to deal with. It’s not something that I can’t get through,” Arrieta said before Philadelphia hosted the Washington Nationals on Friday. “The last thing I want to do is shut it down now and have the surgery now. We’re still trying to do some special things.”
Arrieta, 33, has struggled since May 1, allowing 44 runs in 69 innings. Opponents are batting .301 (83 for 276) against him during that stretch.
Despite those struggles, the Phillies need Arrieta. The rest of their rotation has been inconsistent at best. Phillies starters have allowed 96 home runs, the highest total in the National League.
A less-than-100% Arrieta might be better than any other option the Phillies have.
“(We’re) continuing on with the theme of reading and reacting,” Phillies manager Gabe Kapler said when asked about Arrieta’s chances of finishing the season. “I think there’s a number of possibilities. We have to be prepared to respond to what we see on Sunday.”
Arrieta said the bone spur is the same one he had in 2011 with the Baltimore Orioles. He underwent surgery and did not pitch after July 31 that season.
Arrieta first felt the spur acting up in spring training this season.
“The feel wasn’t as crisp,” he said.
The bone spur is stable and shouldn’t lead to more trouble, according to Arrieta. It mostly prevents him from getting full extension on his pitches.
“I think it was pretty evident in the last couple starts,” he said. “I could barely locate a curveball. I think I hit two guys with change-ups. It’s just not something that I do.”
Arrieta said he hopes adjusting his grip on some pitches improves his command. He has no idea when the spur will flare up and cause an issue.
“Some days it’s 10-15 pitches in that I feel it,” Arrieta said. “Some days it’s not until the fifth or sixth inning. The velocity will drop and the feel starts to go. But there are days where I can get through the majority of the start without much issue.”
Arrieta said rest or an injection aren’t options. The only cure would be surgery.
“The intention is to get through the remainder of the season,” Arrieta said, “and get it taken out after the World Series hopefully.”
That means the Phillies and Arrieta will walk a fine line start by start the rest of this season.
It’s not enough for Arrieta to persevere through the pain, but he must also continue to give the Phillies a chance to win.
“The last thing I want to do is not be here with the guys and grinding every night,” he said. “We continue to move forward and see how this thing’s going to go.”