Realmuto placed on IL, likely out a month with right knee surgery

June 12th, 2024

BOSTON -- The National League-leading Phillies expect to be without for approximately a month.

The star catcher was placed on the 10-day injured list prior to Tuesday’s series-opening 4-1 win in Boston and will undergo right knee meniscectomy surgery on Wednesday in Philadelphia. The timeline of a month lines up well with the All-Star Game -- set for July 16 -- meaning it’s possible that Realmuto could return when the Phillies open the second half on July 19 in Pittsburgh.

“It’s a big blow, that’s for sure,” said ace after throwing seven innings of one-run ball on Tuesday night. “J.T. is, I think, the best in the game. He’s caught me just about every start that I’ve pitched here. It’s different throwing to somebody else, but [Garrett Stubbs] did a great job tonight; he called a great game and he’s a big league catcher for a reason.”

Realmuto first experienced knee pain on May 4 against the Giants, though he was mostly able to play through it with the exception of missing three straight games from May 12-14. He underwent an MRI around that time that revealed a small tear in his meniscus, but it was deemed minor enough that he could potentially keep playing.

“He felt a little bit better over time,” president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski said on Tuesday afternoon. “We thought he'd actually be able to work himself through it, but he developed a little bit more persistent pain.”

The injury progressed to the point that the club actually decided prior to the London Series that Realmuto would undergo the procedure once they returned.

"When I talked to him myself, I said, 'J.T., it looks like we'll have to get this done,'” Dombrowski said. “That was Wednesday. He said, 'Yeah, Dave, we can do it when you want, but I'm all right to play.' And I said, 'No, I think it's time that we get this thing done from what everybody's telling me. Let's get it knocked out.'

“It should be about a month that he'll be out."

It’s not a decision that the Phillies took lightly.

After all, Realmuto -- routinely referred to as the “backbone” of the club by his teammates -- is one of the most valuable players on the roster, given his defensive prowess and management of the pitching staff. He's been a constant for the Phillies, having previously spent only 11 days on the IL -- due to a bone bruise in his left wrist in May 2021 -- since joining the club in 2019.

So how will the Phillies handle the next month or so?

“We'll see,” manager Rob Thomson said. “But I've said it all along, this is a resilient club. Our front office has done a great job creating depth and getting us depth. Every time somebody goes down, somebody steps up. And I'm expecting the same thing this time.”

The Phillies haven’t missed a beat without Trea Turner (strained right hamstring) over the past five weeks. They also made deep runs over the past two seasons despite lengthy absences from Bryce Harper and Rhys Hoskins, among others.

Now, they’ll need to replace not only one of the best, but most durable catchers in the Majors. Realmuto has caught 9,315 2/3 innings since 2015 -- his first full season in MLB. That's 1,547 1/3 more than any other catcher during that span.

Even since joining the Phillies in 2019, Realmuto's 5,130 2/3 innings behind the plate are well ahead of the second-most (Martín Maldonado, 4,492 2/3). Realmuto also leads all catchers with 20.6 bWAR during that span. Routinely posting one of the best pop times across the Majors, per Statcast, Realmuto has thrown out 99 attempted basestealers since joining the Phils -- 20 more than any other catcher.

To fill that void, Philadelphia will turn to backup catcher Stubbs and Rafael Marchán, who was recalled from Triple-A Lehigh Valley to take Realmuto’s spot on the active roster.

Stubbs is slashing .179/.270/.196 in 63 plate appearances this season, though the Phillies are 11-4 in his 15 starts. He's a career .213 hitter with a .604 OPS. As for Marchán, the 25-year-old is slashing .233/.382/.395 in 13 games between Lehigh Valley and Single-A Clearwater this season. He made his season debut on May 14 after missing the start of the season due to lower back pain.

"We're comfortable with it,” Dombrowski said. “Stubbs has actually been playing pretty well for us recently, and we like Marchán. We actually have liked him for years. One of the difficulties for Marchán has always been he's been hurt a lot, but he got back recently from that back [injury], and he's played fine at Triple-A.”

The Phillies (46-20) have the benefit of holding a 10-game lead over the Braves in the National League East and entered Tuesday with a five-game edge over the Dodgers for the best record in the NL.

“I'd rather get it done now -- as he would,” Dombrowski said. “Get it taken care of and then know that he's coming back rather than it stir up later in the year and then have to do it at an inopportune time down the stretch.”