J.T. optimistic about shoulder, outlook for '22

October 2nd, 2021

MIAMI -- joked on Friday that he has never suffered more bruises in his life than he has this season.

He got another one this week when he fouled a pitch off his leg. It was why he did not play Friday.

Realmuto played through the bruises, the fouls balls off the facemask and an injured right shoulder because he wanted to help the Phillies make the postseason for the first time since 2011. But after the Braves eliminated the Phils from contention this week, the only thing he has to worry about after Sunday’s season finale is resting, recovering and getting ready for 2022.

It is not what Realmuto expected after he signed a five-year, $115.5 million contract with the Phillies in January.

“I wanted to come back to Philly because I knew that we’d have a chance to win,” Realmuto said. “I know from [managing partner] John [Middleton] and all the way down, the whole organization cares about one thing and that’s getting back to the postseason and making a run at a World Series. We didn’t reach our goals for various reasons. We didn’t play the quality of baseball that we expected to play. Obviously, there were good things. We have a Cy Young candidate [Zack Wheeler] and the probable MVP [Bryce Harper]. That almost makes it hurt even more when guys play that well and the rest of us couldn’t do enough to get us to the postseason.”

But Realmuto said he is optimistic it will happen in 2022.

“We have a lot of improvements we need to make, but I’m confident [president of baseball operations] Dave [Dombrowski] and the front office and John, they want to make those decisions that are going to put our organization in the best position to win,” he said. “It’s not always easy to do. Dave did what he could this offseason, but we have a lot of areas we can improve as a team. But I’m optimistic he can get it done, make the moves he needs to make to have a better season next year.”

Two things jump out at Realmuto: pitching and defense.

The Phillies' bullpen entered Friday’s 5-0 victory over the Marlins with 34 blown saves, which ties the 2004 Rockies for the MLB record. Its 4.66 ERA ranked 25th. The defense’s -49 Defensive Runs Saved ranked 29th, according to FanGraphs. Its -15 Outs Above Average ranked 25th, according to Statcast.

“Our pitching staff, especially our starters, it had a lot of really good seasons,” Realmuto said. “It’s just that we give away too many runs defensively. Our bullpen, in my opinion, we could walk a lot less guys and attack the zone more. As an offense, I think we have the pieces. I just don’t think we performed as we expected. We just have to do a better job next year of having an offensive approach as a team and getting a group identity and making pitchers work a little more.”

Realmuto entered the season’s final weekend batting .265 with 17 home runs, 73 RBIs and a .790 OPS in 132 games. It could be his fewest home runs and lowest OPS in a full season since 2017 with the Marlins.

Realmuto refused to use his injured right shoulder as an excuse, but he said there was about a month and a half when he felt discomfort on every swing.

“It was a factor,” he said. “I don’t want to say it hindered me a lot, but it’s something I felt on a daily basis. But I was able to play with it. I just wasn’t able to produce the way that I would like to. In any regard, I could have done better, even with it.”

Realmuto said he does not need surgery to fix the shoulder. But he will rehab it, likening his offseason rehab program to a pitcher’s. His family bought a home in Clearwater, Fla., so he said he will head to Clearwater after the season and work at the team’s facilities there. The Realmutos will spend the holidays in Oklahoma before they return to Florida after the New Year.

A healthy shoulder, a few solid offseason acquisitions and some tightening up on a few other things, and Realmuto thinks next season will be different.

“We were three good games in Atlanta away from winning this division,” he said. “We’re right there. There’s no reason why we shouldn’t be optimistic.”