PHILADELPHIA – The Phillies hoped for months that David Robertson would rejoin their bullpen in July. Now they just hope he pitches in 2020.
Robertson, who signed a two-year, $23 million contract in January, said Wednesday that he will miss the rest of the season and have surgery to repair the injured flexor tendon in his right elbow. He also might need Tommy John surgery to repair his ulnar collateral ligament. If he needs Tommy John surgery, he likely would miss the entire 2020 season. It would be a blow to the Phillies’ offseason plans, as they would need to fill another hole in their bullpen.
“I am pretty frustrated with myself and pretty disappointed because I really wanted to step in and be on this team and help make a difference, but it just hasn't worked out for me,” Robertson said.
Robertson felt something in his elbow in Spring Training, but he made seven appearances in March and April before he landed on the injured list.
His rehab had been slow. Each time he threw, he said, he needed several days to recover.
“I've never had an injury like this before,” he said. “I didn't know if it was tendinitis or something that I just needed to push through and work through, and I've been trying my best to do that and it just hasn't happened for me. If anything, I've made it worse. So I'm kind of at that point.”
The Phillies entered the season expecting big things from veterans Tommy Hunter, Pat Neshek and Robertson, as well as young hard throwers like Seranthony Dominguez and Victor Arano. Hunter had season-ending right elbow surgery recently. Arano had arthroscopic surgery in May. Dominguez has been on the IL since June because of a right UCL injury. Neshek has been on the IL with a strained left hamstring since June.
“On paper, starting the season, I thought we were going to be exceptional,” Robertson said. “And I didn't think all of us would get injured. I've had a pretty good run of getting a lot of appearances every season and I didn't see why this season was going to be any different. I just feel that it was unlucky and my body just didn't hold up this year.”
The Phillies moved former starters Nick Pivetta and Zach Eflin into the bullpen recently to try to help matters. They also acquired right-handers Mike Morin and Blake Parker, who pitched earlier this season for the Twins.
"The way I view the bullpen now is we have to continue to be creative and aggressive,” Phillies manager Gabe Kapler said. “We have to learn as much as we can as quickly as we can. So, what Pivetta can be out of the bullpen for us, can he be a seventh or eighth inning high-leverage guy? That's still TBD. Does Eflin fit that profile? It's probably important that we see him out of the bullpen in the next few days, see what he looks like. It's going to be a little bit of a chess match for a while.
"I'm not saying it's perfect by any stretch. I'm not trying to color it rosy. Just saying I think we have some ways to be creative and try to make the best of the situation of what we have in our bullpen currently."