Painter outlines goals with sights set on '25

February 24th, 2024

This story was excerpted from Todd Zolecki’s Phillies Beat newsletter. To read the full newsletter, click here. And subscribe to get it regularly in your inbox.

A year ago, Andrew Painter captivated Phillies fans and even Phillies players with his talent and upside.

Who could forget the crowd that gathered for Painter’s live BP on Robin Roberts Field at Carpenter Complex on Feb. 22, 2023? Painter struck out Kyle Schwarber on a 99 mph fastball in his first at-bat, but Schwarber smashed a hanging curveball for a homer in the second. Afterward, teammates raved about what they saw.

And who could forget Painter’s Grapefruit League debut against the Twins in Ft. Myers on March 1?

“I believe this kid’s going to be a star,” Twins shortstop Carlos Correa said.

Painter remains the Phillies’ No. 1 prospect and the No. 27 prospect in baseball, according to MLB Pipeline. But he will be behind the scenes this spring as he continues to recover from July’s Tommy John surgery.

He is not expected to pitch again until 2025.

“We haven’t talked about a timetable or anything like that,” Painter said Friday afternoon at BayCare Ballpark. “We don’t want to clog the mind with different scenarios and play the hypothetical game. We’re just trying to make sure there’s the least amount of distractions possible and I can just go in and focus on my rehab and make sure we’re getting better every day.”

Painter said he is getting better. He started throwing a baseball last month. These days, he is playing catch four days a week from 75 feet.

“I kind of just picked up a ball,” Painter said. “It's like riding a bike. Just kind of picked it up and started throwing. By that time, I made a couple throws, and you can't look back on it and be scared, because you've already done it.”

Patience is required here. Painter is only 20. Even if he misses the entire season as expected, he will be only 21 next year.

He has plenty of time to have a long and successful career.

“Generally, it’s 12-18 months [to recover from Tommy John surgery],” Phillies president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski said last week. “They’re usually not ready to go until the second year anyway. This is the first year. So you may as well give a young kid like that full opportunity to make himself [healthy]. We don’t need to rush him.”

Painter said he hasn’t thought too much about the hype that surrounded him last spring. He said he can barely remember pitching against the Twins in Ft. Myers.

“I mean, you can't live in the future, can't live in the past,” Painter said.

Painter doesn’t think he pushed himself too hard last spring trying to impress. He said he has no regrets about trying to rehab his injured right elbow.

“The data said where the sprain was, there was a good chance I was going to come back,” Painter said. “Obviously, you don't want to just go straight into surgery if you don't need it. I think from that you obviously want to try. The plan was originally three months. It ended up being four because there was a sickness in there. There were some road bumps that obviously didn't help. Looking back, I'm still glad that we did what we did. Just because you don't want to play the game of looking back [and saying], 'Oh, could I have been back? Could I have done this?' Just knowing that you gave it a shot and it just didn't work out.”

The goals this season are simple: keep moving in a straight line, continue to progress with his throwing program, throw off a mound at some point.

“The main focus right now is, I want to feel good, I want to be healthy, I want to throw to some hitters and just be able to feel close to what I was pre-injury,” Painter said. “Just mentally knowing that I can repeat what I was in the past and get back to that [or] even better than that.”