The Philadelphia Phillies are unlikely to make a big splash at the trade deadline, but they have already made some small deals to help their starting pitching rotation. First, they added Drew Smyly. Most recently, the Phils acquired veteran left-hander Jason Vargas and cash from the Mets for Double-A catcher Austin Bossart. With Vargas joining the rotation, one of the young Phillies arms got sent to the bullpen. The odd man out? Zach Eflin.
Phillies manager Gabe Kapler told reporters prior to Tuesday’s game against the Giants that Eflin would be moved to the bullpen. Per Jayson Stark of The Athletic, Eflin’s role in the bullpen will likely be to piggyback behind Jake Arrieta or Vince Velasquez, who have challenges going deep into ballgames for the Phillies.
“I still believe wholeheartedly that I’m a starter,” Eflin said after hearing the news. “But if that’s what the team needs, I’m gonna be there for them.”
Eflin mentioned that he was a little surprised by the move, but that it isn’t his decision and that he hadn’t been doing his job as a starter for the Phillies.
“Going to the bullpen is another opportunity for me, another challenge,” Eflin continued. “I’m a fan of challenges, so I’ll go down there and be the best version of myself that I can be.”
Eflin, 25, had a good start to the season , posting a 3.34 ERA in six April starts and a 2.64 ERA in five May starts. In June, the right-hander held the opposition to three runs or less in four of his five starts. The month of July hasn’t been to kind to Eflin, though. In four starts, spanning 15.2 innings, he’s surrendered 22 earned runs on 28 hits, walking seven and striking out 12. That’s good for an ERA of 12.64. The Phillies went 2-8 in Eflin’s last 10 starts dating back to May 16.
Gabe Kapler also announced that newcomer Jason Vargas would make his Phillies debut on Friday night against the White Sox. Although Vargas has a 4.82 ERA in July, the veteran southpaw has held opposing teams to three runs or less in eight of his last 10 starts. That stretch has included two match-ups against the AL East leading Yankees, the Cardinals and Giants, who have won 19 of 24.
Eflin’s move to the bullpen means that Vince Velasquez will get a few more opportunities in the rotation. The Phillies had Velasquez in the bullpen earlier this season, but he’s been a little bit better since returning to the rotation. In his last start against the Tigers, Velasquez pitched 5.2 shutout innings with nine strikeouts.