Phillies SP Vance Worley (Photo by Drew Hallowell/Getty Images)
There is one name in all of baseball that is feared when it’s uttered: Dr. James Andrews.
Phillies injured starting pitcher Vance Worley visited Dr. Andrews Monday afternoon, seeking a second opinion on his elbow. UPDATE (via Todd Zolecki): Worley back from 2nd opinion. Said same diagnosis as Phillies doctors. No Tommy John. Will have to pitch rest of year with bone chip.
Usually when Andrews is involved, it’s because he’s the best doctor in sports, specializing in the Tommy John surgery.
It was reported by the Philadelphia Inquirer that Worley has a small bone chip in his right elbow.
“He has a small body embedded in the lining of his joint,” Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. said. “We don’t think it’s the reason why he had inflammation, but it’s possible. This is something that’s not very uncommon. But it could be the cause of some of the inflammation. We haven’t heard from Andrews.”
Worley originally went on the disabled list with elbow inflammation. Before the injury, Worley was 3-2 with a 3.07 ERA in seven starts.
He would have been scheduled to start Monday but Kyle Kendrick pitched beautifully in his place despite taking the 2-1 loss to the Nationals.
Worley is still confident he can start throwing soon. With this bone chip, Worley said he can have surgery to fix it in the offseason.
For now, Worley is going to play the tough-guy role, a role all too familiar with players like Chase Utley, Placido Polanco and Raul Ibanez in the past.
“Man up. That’s the only thing I can do. I’ll just grit and grind out there,” Worley said.
But how long can Worley really “man up?” This isn’t September. It’s May, and that’s a long time for someone, no matter how mentally tough, to pitch through elbow pain.
That is why the Phillies could be worried they won’t have Worley for much longer this season. It happened last season with Joe Blanton, who tried to return but injured his elbow even worse before being put on the shelf permanently. It also happened with Roy Oswalt, who was pretty ineffective when he could pitch while fighting lower back problems.
A more permanent option in the rotation may be on the Phillies radar screen this season, and it can come from one of two places.
They already were reportedly watching their former starter Oswalt pitch a bullpen sessions. Oswalt, who didn’t sign with anyone in the offseason, is going to sign with a contender around the middle of the season so that he could give the team he joins an immediate spark in the rotation.
Another option is sticking it out with Kendrick for the rest of the season. In Kendrick’s last four starts, he has allowed six earned runs with 17 strikeouts in 24 innings, going 0-3 because the offense or bullpen hasn’t done a single thing for him in any of the starts.
One option the Phillies absolutely cannot do is trade for another pitcher at the deadline. Even though the farm resources are all tapped-out thanks to Amaro’s free-spending ways, a bat or bullpen arm should be the top priority at the deadline.
The offense will be getting huge lifts in the return of Utley and Ryan Howard. But the bullpen has been the biggest problem and that should be on the Phillies list of priorities as July 30 rolls around.