Philadelphia Phillies' pitcher Andrew Painter delivers in the first inning during a spring training baseball game against the Minnesota Twins, Wednesday, March 1, 2023, in Fort Myers, Fla. (AP Photo/Brynn Anderson)

The Phillies got some bad news this week about their top pitching prospect. While not entirely a shock, it came as a huge disappointment. 

Twenty-year-old Andrew Painter, who is perhaps the best pitching prospect in all of baseball, has been shut down for the season. He appears headed to the surgeon’s table sometime next week for reconstructive Tommy John elbow surgery.

Painter, who was 19 this spring when Phillies President Dave Dombrowski said he would likely join the big league rotation this season, never made it past his first spring training outing back in March. Elbow pain shut him down after an MRI revealed a slight tear of one of the ligaments in his pitching elbow, although at that point doctors recommended rest rather than an operation.

Three months later, after a slow buildup to get back on the mound, the elbow pain returned, leading the Phils to decide surgery is the best option. Tommy John surgery typically puts starting pitchers out for 12-16 months, meaning the next time we’re likely to see Painter on a pitching mound is 2025, at the earliest.

And it could be another year after that, 2026, before he’s in the big leagues. On Episode 694 of Hittin’ Season, I spoke with ESPN Sports Center anchor Kevin Negandhi about the Painter injury.

While Painter will still be just 22 when he’s set to return, and while pitchers generally recover from this surgery throwing better than before, some are not as effective when they come back. We can only wait and hope for the best.

This is just the latest in a series of setbacks when it comes to Phillies pitching prospects over the last few years. 

Back in 2019, Sixto Sanchez was the team’s top young arm and rated as one of the top 50 prospects in baseball. But consistent elbow pain caused some in the organization to wonder about his long-term viability as a starter, so he was used as the headliner in a trade to the Miami Marlins for catcher J.T. Realmuto.

Sanchez made eight starts for the Marlins in 2020 and looked amazing. He then had another setback with his elbow and hasn’t pitched in three years. 

Spencer Howard was another top 100 pitching prospect for the Phils, back in 2020. However, the pandemic and shoulder problems forced him out of action. And when he got back, he was absolutely terrible. He was traded to the Texas Rangers for Kyle Gibson at the ‘21 deadline. Over 112 MLB innings, Howard has a 7.39 ERA. 

This time, while Painter sits on the shelf for the next year and a half, the Phils will look to minor league arms Mick Abel and Griff McGarry to infuse the big league rotation with the young talent it will need. Both have been healthy this year and are pitching relatively well for their ages. 

Both could reach the Majors next season, and the ceiling is high — if they can avoid the Phillies’ right-handed pitching prospect curse. 

John Stolnis grew up in Delco as a rabid fan of all Philadelphia sports, but the Phillies have always held a special place in his heart, particularly those disappointing Juan Samuel-led teams of the late...