Philadelphia’s Young Pitchers Move Forward
The Phillies saw a lot of promise in the rotation in 2016. Jerad Eickhoff, Aaron Nola, Vincent Velasquez, and even Zach Eflin all flashed at least some potential moving forward. However, there are still a few roadblocks that need to be overcame first.
In Nola’s case it’s pretty simple: can he bounce back from his elbow injury that shelved him for the last two months of the 2016 season? He made the first step in the right direction Thursday in his spring training debut when he struck out one batter and didn’t allow a run in two innings of work. Obviously we will need to see Nola pitch in the regular season and go deeper into games before we can consider him 100% back to normal.
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Velasquez’s biggest issue in 2016 was his inability to last deep into games. While he struck out 27.6% of batters, it caused him to throw a lot of pitches early on. This caused him to be pulled by the end of the sixth inning in nearly every outing. Velasquez will look to improve his efficiency by using his curveball more often, but it will take time to see if that will actually work.
For Eflin, he also needs to prove that he healthy again after undergoing double knee surgery last offseason.
He got off on the wrong foot as knee soreness held him out of a bullpen session earlier in spring training. Thankfully, he seems to be back on track and is poised to make his spring debut in the next week or two.
Barring an unforeseen injury to someone in the big-league rotation, Eflin is set to start the year back at Triple-A Lehigh Valley. There he will look to reproduce his early 2016 numbers – 2.90 ERA, 0.88 WHIP, .197 batting average against – that brought him to the major-leagues in the first place.