Phillies may have to shut down J.T. Realmuto against his will in final week


WASHINGTON, D.C. — Would J.T. Realmuto be playing Monday if the Phillies didn't face a one-in-a-million chance to make the playoffs?

Probably not. Realmuto is dealing with right knee soreness and it's paramount for the Phillies to make sure there is no risk of further injury before putting him back on the field.

He was out of the lineup Monday night after experiencing the soreness Sunday in Cleveland.

"It was the double-play ball, the grounder to short," Realmuto said. "I was running to first. I didn't actually feel anything when I was running so I don't know how it happened. When I came back out to catch the next inning, I just felt a little discomfort in my knee, it kept popping every time I moved it. It would pop, just a little discomfort. It wasn't really painful yesterday, but I woke up today and it was a little more tender, a little more pain. Definitely sore. I think Gabe just wanted to be cautious today and not push it."

The Phillies are taking a day-to-day approach for now. Realmuto will undergo an MRI Monday night.

"I'm going to go get one tonight just to make sure," he said. "With it being my knee, we don't want to take any chances. I don't see it being anything too serious. I think I should feel better tomorrow, but we're going to get one just to make sure."

It's easy to point to Realmuto's workload to explain a late-season injury, but it may not be accurate. This has been a remarkably healthy and durable season for the two-time All-Star. He has played 145 games, starting 130 behind the plate and accruing 593 plate appearances. Those 130 starts are 12 more than any catcher. He has logged 87 more innings behind the plate than any catcher.

But until Sunday night and aside from a few missed starts when a ball caught him in the manly parts in mid-June, Realmuto has not been affected by injuries this year. He has gotten stronger as the season has progressed, which is unique among catchers. It's more common to see a catcher follow the track of 2019 Willson Contreras — very good offensively early, but the bat wanes and the nagging injuries mount throughout the six-month grind.

Realmuto has been a different story. His second-half OPS is 125 points higher than his first-half mark. He has four more extra-base hits in the second half in 83 fewer plate appearances.

"I feel like with my body type and my preparation this is the type of workload that I want," Realmuto said. "I feel like it's something I can still sustain for years to come. I don't think missing one game in September is a problem where I don't think I should catch as much. I think it's definitely something for my career that I want to be a guy that's back there every day."

If the MRI shows anything potentially worrisome, Realmuto will likely be shut down for the season's final eight games.

"We're going to be smart about it," he said. "Because we all know where we stand right now in the standings. I don't want to push it and risk hurting myself for next year or anything like that. But if there's nothing structural wise that I can make worse, then I want to be back there with my teammates and I want to play the last few games of the year. I love to play this game so I want to be out there if I can, but we're going to be smart about it."

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