Phillies manager Rob Thomson told reporters, including Alex Coffey of the Philadelphia Inquirer, that outfielder Cristian Pache is set to undergo surgery to remove a screw from his throwing elbow tomorrow. Pache is expected to return this season, though Coffey notes that Thomson said he’ll be out for a “few weeks” nonetheless.
It’s an unfortunate update for Pache, who was placed on the injured list Friday with right-elbow irritation. A former consensus top-20 prospect in the entire sport, Pache came up with the Braves before being swapped to Oakland in the Matt Olson deal. He struggled badly with the A’s last year, slashing just .166/.218/.241 in 91 games. That prompted Oakland to designate Pache for assignment during Spring Training this season before dealing him to the Phillies just before Opening Day.
Tomorrow’s surgery will be Pache’s second this season, as he missed six weeks after undergoing knee surgery at the beginning of May. In spite of those injury woes, Pache’s enjoyed the best offensive season of his career as a part-time player in Philadelphia, slashing an excellent .327/.365/.592 in 53 plate appearances while playing excellent center field defense.
With Pache now headed to the shelf for an extended period of time, Rookie outfielder Johan Rojas figures to get an extended opportunity in Pache’s previous role as a right-handed complement to lefty outfielders Kyle Schwarber and Brandon Marsh. The club’s outfield picture is about to get more flexible as well, as MLB.com’s Todd Zolecki relays that Bryce Harper is set to make his season debut in the field at first base during the club’s upcoming series in Milwaukee. With Harper set to spend time at first going forward, that will open up the DH for Schwarber more often, allowing the club to play both Marsh and Rojas alongside right fielder Nick Castellanos or open up space for an outfield acquisiton at the trade deadline.
Harper’s recovery from Tommy John surgery has been unprecedented in its speed, and it appears his return to the field will be no exception. In addition to beginning to field at first base later this week, Coffey adds that the Phillies haven’t completely ruled out a return to right field before the end of the season, with manager Rob Thomson quoted as saying the possibility is “on the edge of the table.” Such a move would seemingly be contingent on not only Harper’s health but also the moves the club makes prior to the trade deadline on August 1.
The Phillies have long been interested in adding a right-handed outfielder to the club’s current mix, and such an acquisition could create a logjam in the outfield between Castellanos, Schwarber, Marsh, Rojas, Pache, and the acquisition that would only be further exacerbated by Harper’s return to the grass.