June 23, 2024

Phillies lose their ‘backbone’ as J.T. Realmuto goes on IL, will have knee surgery

BOSTON — The list of players more valuable to the Phillies than J.T. Realmuto is not long and, now, the team with the best record in baseball will have to do it without him for at least a month.

Realmuto will undergo surgery Wednesday to repair his right meniscus, the Phillies announced Tuesday. The club did not offer an immediate timetable for his return, but meniscus surgeries typically come with a month or two of recovery — especially for a catcher.

It’s a huge blow to a Phillies team that expects this week to get Trea Turner and Brandon Marsh back from hamstring injuries. Realmuto is integral to how the Phillies have succeeded on the mound. The gap between Realmuto and his replacements, Garrett Stubbs and Rafael Marchán, is wide.

But the Phillies have a nine-game lead in the National League East and, given that Realmuto had been playing through soreness in his right knee for almost five weeks with no improvement, they decided it was better to address it now. That reduces the risk of a compromised catcher for the remainder of the season — or knee surgery at a much less convenient time.

Realmuto was removed from Sunday’s game against the New York Mets in the ninth inning for a pinch runner, a curious decision given how adept a base runner he is. He had hit .135/.200/.189 since May 25 and was not driving the ball. The balky knee was a factor.

The Phillies will likely split catching duties between Stubbs and Marchán, who was recalled from Triple-A Lehigh Valley after spending the weekend in London with the big-league club as an extra man. Marchán missed the first two months of the season with a back problem but has always been regarded as a strong defender. The Phillies will need to find offense from other positions while Realmuto is sidelined. The priority for Stubbs and Marchán will be managing the pitchers.

But no one can replace Realmuto.

“He’s the backbone of our team,” Nick Castellanos said last week.

Required reading



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(Photo of J.T. Realmuto tagging out Rhys Hoskins on June 3: Chris Szagola / Associated Press)