Buchholz has surgery, could miss rest of '17

Phillies righty's procedure on forearm requires recovery time of 4-6 months

Buchholz has surgery, could miss rest of '17

NEW YORK -- There is a baseball adage that there is no such thing as a bad one-year contract.

But certainly the Phillies are not happy that Clay Buchholz had surgery Tuesday to repair a torn flexor tendon in his right forearm. He needs an estimated four to six months to recover, meaning his Phillies career might have lasted just two starts and 144 pitches. Fortunately for the Phillies, Buchholz's injury will not cripple the organization's rebuild as he is in the final season of a multi-year contract.

The contract pays him $13.5 million this year, which is a lot of money without any return, but the Phillies have no financial commitments beyond this season other than Odubel Herrera's club-friendly deal.

"It's just the nature of what you're dealing with," Phillies president Andy MacPhail said before Tuesday's series opener against the Mets at Citi Field. "We've tried three times to get veteran pitchers to help stabilize [the rotation]: [Jeremy] Hellickson, [Charlie] Morton, Buchholz. We're batting .333."

The Phillies acquired Hellickson and Morton in trades before the 2016 season. Hellickson went 12-10 with a 3.71 ERA in 32 starts last season. He is 2-0 with a 1.59 ERA in three starts this season. Morton made just four starts last season before having season-ending hamstring surgery.

The injuries to Morton and Buchholz reinforce the Phillies' desire to develop their own pitching. It also has the Phillies looking back at those trades.

"We review everything that had us reach those decisions," MacPhail said.

The Phillies acquired Buchholz in a December trade with the Red Sox, sending second-base prospect Josh Tobias to Boston. They had no reason to suspect Buchholz would have elbow problems. After all, the Red Sox picked up the $13.5 million club option following the 2016 season, indicating they also had no concerns.

But Buchholz never showed the velocity he had last season in Boston. His four-seam fastball averaged 92.6 mph last season. It averaged 90.9 mph in two starts this year. He had similar drops with his sinker (92.5 mph to 90.1 mph) and cutter (89 mph to 86.9 mph).

"I think there's a difference between reviewing your decision-making process and determining if there were any pieces of information that you should have considered that you didn't," MacPhail said. "I don't think that's the case.

"What you can do differently is not have to depend upon getting pitching from that area, really. It's one of the reasons that you haven't seen us go beyond a year. An organization can absorb an injury for a year. You just don't want one that's going to sink you."

Of course, the Phillies eventually might need a starting pitcher if they want to take another step in their rebuild. Pitchers like Jake Arrieta, Yu Darvish and Johnny Cueto could be free agents this winter.

Certainly, they would require a lucrative, multi-year contract.

"I think you have to stay open to any opportunity if it makes sense," MacPhail said. "I have made no secret, personally, free-agent pitching is fragile and expensive by the time it gets to you. That said, I don't think you ever should rule anything out. We make decisions based on the information you have at the time.

"A lot of it is going to depend upon what you think you have in-house."

That is where Zach Eflin, Jake Thompson, Nick Pivetta, Ben Lively and others come into play. If they meet or exceed expectations, the Phillies could funnel their money elsewhere, preferably into their offense.

"It goes to underscore the importance of numbers and developing pitchers in your system," MacPhail said.

Todd Zolecki has covered the Phillies since 2003, and for MLB.com since 2009. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.