Bailey Falter talks Andrew Painter injury, Phillies' rotation battle


The storyline that would have dominated Phillies camp went by the wayside late last week when Andrew Painter came away from his first spring training start with elbow tenderness.

While there's still been no formal update from the Phillies on Painter in the six days since they initially revealed the injury, it is obvious now that it will prevent him from making the team out of camp as the fifth starter. He's 19 years old and whether this is an issue that requires rest or is something more serious, the Phillies will exercise extreme caution. So will Painter's agent, Scott Boras. 

"We're still trying to get all the tests, all the information on all the tests together," manager Rob Thomson said Tuesday. "Once we get it all read -- he's such an important guy in our organization. We just want to make sure the information's right."

Left-hander Bailey Falter is now in a good spot to begin the season as the Phillies' No. 5 starter. He threw 40 pitches on Tuesday against the Rays, pitching into the third inning in his second start of the spring. He allowed an unearned run on three singles, striking out three.

"I knew it was going to be a friendly competition between us," Falter said after the start. "It just sucks to hear what happened with him. We locker right next to each other so we've been talking and I'm here for him, whatever he needs.

"I was in the same thing as him when I was 19, 20, 21, not being able to grow into my body properly. He's getting older, getting stronger, the kid's 19 and throws 100 (mph), so obviously you're going to run into some problems every now and then. He seems to be in good spirits so that's the only thing that really matters right now. 

"A lot of players speak really highly of Painter. He's a young kid, he's mature, he's gonna fit in perfect over here."

Painter's upside is huge -- unmatched among current pitching prospects, according to Baseball America and -- but the Phillies and their fans will have to wait at least a little while longer. He showed a glimpse of his potential last Wednesday when he pumped 98 and 99 mph fastballs, impressing a Twins lineup filled with big-leaguers.

Falter hasn't outright won the job yet but is in the driver's seat. Cristopher Sanchez and Nick Nelson have each appeared in one spring game to this point, pitching an inning apiece. Sanchez made his first appearance Tuesday after dealing with a back issue earlier in camp. 

"How often do you guys see the same five starters finish the whole entire year? It's rare, especially in today's game with everyone throwing harder," Falter said. "Arms get a little bit more tender now. It's not me, we're gonna need Cristopher Sanchez, Nick Nelson, we're gonna need all these guys because we're not gonna be good to go every start as much as we'd like to be."

Excluding openers, the Phillies used eight starters last season and 11 the year before.

Next on the depth chart after Falter right now might be Michael Plassmeyer, who's pitched 5⅓ scoreless innings this spring in three appearances, two of which were starts. Plassmeyer pitched into the third inning Monday in Sarasota against the Orioles. The 26-year-old was acquired from the Giants last June for catcher Austin Wynns and pitched well at Triple A, going 6-3 with a 2.41 ERA in 16 starts with a strikeout per inning. Plassmeyer appeared in two games for the Phillies late in the season, going 1⅓ scoreless innings against the Reds on August 23 and pitching six innings of three-run ball in relief against the Astros in Game 162.

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