PHILADELPHIA — The Phillies took a substantial step closer to full staffing for a pennant race Wednesday when Zach Eflin was declared ready to return to the rotation.
The talented but brittle right-hander has not pitched for the Phils since July 16 due to tendinitis in his knee, but will start at 7:05 Thursday night against the visiting Arizona Diamondbacks.
“I feel mentally ready to come back,” Eflin said. “I feel prepared and ready to go.”
Eflin will take the rotation spot of Matt Moore, who will retreat to the bullpen to provide Joe Girardi with a left-hander able to supply length.
With that, the Phillies will be at least four deep in high-quality starters in Zack Wheeler, Aaron Nola, Kyle Gibson and Eflin. Ranger Suarez, who threw 99 pitches in six-plus effective innings Tuesday, has completed the transition back to the rotation from the bullpen.
Though Eflin is 4-7 with a 4.17 ERA, he struck out seven or more in five of his 18 starts and has the experience and talent to strengthen the rotation. He threw 2.1 scoreless innings in a rehab start for Reading Saturday.
“We just felt that he can help us here and it’s the way we would do it,” Joe Girardi said. “I saw his last start. I thought his stuff was good. We decided to just start him, let him go as long as he can and we’ll go from there.”
Eflin expects to throw about 50 pitches Thursday, though Girardi said he would not necessarily be on a pitch count.
“We’ll just watch carefully,” he said. “I won’t put a limit on it, but obviously it’s not 100. But we’ll just watch carefully.”
A formal roster move will be necessary Thursday. Eflin is just happy to be available for whatever the Phillies encounter in what remains of the NL East race.
“It will be fun to bring the energy every single day and not just sit on the bench and watch and cheerlead,” he said. “It was a really horrible feeling to be hurt and I’m happy to be back.”
Right-hander Zac Gallan (1-7, 4.59) will start Thursday for Arizona.
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With left-handed Ryan Yarbrough starting for Tampa Bay Thursday, Girardi started Freddy Galvis at short over Didi Gregorius.
While Galvis’ early-season AL East experience with the Baltimore Orioles was a factor, it was also an indication that Girardi intends to move Galvis around in the infield and continue to use Ronald Torreyes as his regular third baseman.
“Freddy has seen Yarbrough a couple times this year,” Girardi said. “But I think keeping our guys fresh is important down the stretch. I can put him at third one day. I can play him at second. I just want him to contribute however he can.”
There was some thought that Galvis, who has shown more power than Torreyes throughout his career, was more likely to play regularly at third.
“No, I would think I would move Freddy around right now,” Girardi said. “But I could move ‘To.’”
Galvis had last played for the Phillies Oct. 1, 2017, and received a warm ovation during the pregame introductions.
He was hitting .249 with nine home runs in 72 games for Baltimore, but had not played since June 26 due to a quad injury.
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Consistent with what he expects to be a day-on, day-off routine, Girardi returned Rhys Hoskins to first base against Yarbrough. He also plans to start his leading home-run hitter against Arizona right-hander Taylor Widener Friday and left-handed Madison Bumgarner Sunday.
Signals, however, are growing that Hoskins’ lingering groin issue is not fully healed, with Girardi acknowledging that even when he is available only to pinch-hit, he likely would be immediately lifted for a pinch runner.
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Though rosters are permitted to expand to 28 next week, the return of Alec Bohm is not a certainty.
“We want him to go, play and have some fun and relax a little bit,” Girardi said, “and get going again.”
Despite his 16 errors this season, the Phillies are continuing to project Bohm as a third baseman and have no plans, Girardi said, to try to recondition him as a left fielder.
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Andrew McCutchen, who had struck out in each of his previous six plate appearances, was back in the lineup Wednesday. There is some concern, however, about his left knee.
“It’s something that he deals with all year long, right?” Girardi said. “Sometimes it acts up a little bit more than others. There are times where he goes through and doesn’t feel something. There’s times when he goes through and will feel a little pinch and then it will go away. So, again, that’s another guy that just you have to manage how that knee is doing all the time.”
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NOTES >> Jorge Bonifacio cleared waivers and was sent to Lehigh Valley (AAA). … Girardi rested Odubel Herrera, whose injured knee also needs consistent monitoring, against Yarbrough and started Luke Williams in center. … Jose Alvarado (shoulder) had an acceptable rehab appearance for Lehigh Valley Tuesday and should rejoin the Phillies Thursday.
Source: Berkshire mont