Phillies right-hander Zach Eflin could return before season’s end as a reliever.
The Philadelphia Phillies have found a way to make their starting rotation work the past two months without injured right-hander Zach Eflin.
Eflin, 28, has been limited to just 13 starts this season due to pain in his right knee. The right-hander last pitched on June 25, away against the San Diego Padres — coincidentally, Bryce Harper’s last game before landing on the injured list with a fractured thumb.
However, according to recent reporters, there is “some optimism” that Eflin could return in the coming weeks as a reliever, reports Phillies Nation’s Destiny Lugardo and The Philadelphia Inquirer’s Scott Lauber.
The right-hander will travel with the team to Arizona and San Francisco this week, where there is a chance he could throw a bullpen session. Since there are just shy of six weeks left in the season, there would not be enough time to build Eflin back up as a starting pitcher. Still, he could be a solid addition to a Phillies bullpen that could always use some support — especially in the final stretch of a long, 162-game schedule.
Through five games and 8 1/3 career innings when used as a reliever, Eflin has an impressive 1.08 ERA and 0.960 WHIP ratio, striking out seven of his 31 batters faced.
Once presumed as the Phillies’ No. 3 starter behind Aaron Nola and Zack Wheeler, the seven-year veteran has struggled this year in the rotation — going 3-5 with a 4.37 ERA, 1.191 WHIP, and 56-15 strikeouts-to-walks ratio across 68 innings.
Back in May, Eflin and the Phillies avoided salary arbitration with a one-year deal, plus a $15 million mutual option for the 2023 season. At the time of the deal, Eflin told reporters the following, hoping eventually he will re-sign long-term:
"“I love pitching in Philly. I love the fans in Philly. They hold their players accountable, which I’m really big into.”"
There is a chance, however, that Eflin has thrown his last pitch in a Phillies uniform — or at least as a starting pitcher. With Ranger Suarez and Bailey Falter stepping up, pending free-agent Kyle Gibson logging solid innings, and rising prospects like Andrew Painter and Mick Abel — odds are the Phillies will just take the $150,000 buyout and consider other options for the 2023 rotation.