What should the Phillies expect from Zach Eflin upon his return?

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Phillies starter Zach Eflin
WASHINGTON, DC – SEPTEMBER 23: Philadelphia Phillies starting pitcher Zach Eflin (56) pitches during the Philadelphia Phillies versus the Washington Nationals on September 23, 2020 at Nationals Park in Washington, D.C. (Photo by Mark Goldman/Icon Sportswire)

The Phillies have reactivated right-handed pitcher Zach Eflin from the 60-Day Injured List, and he will rejoin the Phillies starting Tuesday night in Miami.

The longtime Phillies starter has missed most of the last two seasons after dealing with injuries to his right knee, an area that had bothered him so much that he received season-ending surgery in 2021.

Eflin started the year off strong with the Phillies and made thirteen starts before being shut down with knee soreness. At the time, the Phillies were cautiously moving, hoping to get out before a major injury. They gave him a few weeks, including the All-Star break to get right.

After time passed and no improvements were shown in the knee, the Phillies knew that Eflin’s season could potentially be over.

Forcing their Hand

The Phillies added Noah Syndergaard at the trade deadline to replace Zach Eflin in the starting rotation. Syndergaard’s 4-1 record with a 4.61 earned run average is similar to the production the Phillies were getting out of Eflin before his injury.

Zach has pitched in 13 games, all starts, and pitched to a 3-5 record and 4.37 earned run average for the season. The production hasn’t dropped off in his absence; however, the Phillies were expecting more out of their right-hander this season.

With Eflin now active and ready to make an impact for the team down the stretch, Zach has lost his spot in the rotation. Between not having a lot of time to build up arm strength and his spot being filled in the rotation, Zach has been moved to the bullpen for the remainder of 2022.

What the Phillies should expect

Zach Eflin has been a starter for Philadelphia since his career began. His move to the bullpen will be unique, and it may take some time adjusting to. The Phillies have options with Eflin, depending on how well he performs.

To start off his return, skipper Rob Thomson may look to use Zach in low leverage situations or as the long man out of the pen. Depending on how he looks, there could be an opportunity for Eflin to move up the ranks in the bullpen.

While the closer spot is already locked in, there is potential for Zach Eflin to become a weapon in their bullpen. He clearly has starter stuff and will return to the role next season (whether it’s with the Phillies or not). In recent seasons, teams have used starters in the bullpen during the postseason. The Phillies could do the same with Zach without sacrificing a spot in their rotation.

Another option is to use Zach as an opener. This technique has gained some popularity in recent seasons, and most notably, the Tampa Bay Rays have used this strategy well. The most logical pairing would be with Ranger Suarez, who has struggled to go late in games this season. Ranger also has some experience entering the game from the bullpen, so his transition to working with an opener could work well.

The Phillies have a lot of options moving forward. The best plan they can follow is the one that keeps Zach Eflin healthy and effective. Zach’s return can be huge for this team if used correctly and we should get to see his first action back this series in Miami.

Photo Credit: Mark Goldman/Icon Sportswire