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Phillies call up reliever Francisco Morales; Zach Eflin hits COVID IL

Francisco Morales was moved to the bullpen this season. (Cheryl Pursell)

Following a change in role, it didn’t take long for right-hander Francisco Morales to crack the majors for the first time.

The newly minted reliever earned his first big-league promotion on Sunday as the Philadelphia Phillies called him up to replace starter Zach Eflin, who was placed on the COVID-related injured list. He’ll be active for the team’s doubleheader against the New York Mets on Sunday afternoon along with left-hander Cristopher Sánchez, the designated 27th player for the day.

Morales, 22, has served as a back-end reliever for Double-A Reading this year after four inconsistent minor-league seasons as a starter. He posted a 0.55 ERA in 16 1/3 innings across nine appearances with the Fightins.

The decision to convert Morales to a full-time reliever sparked some comparisons to Phillies reliever Seranthony Domínguez, who moved from the rotation to the bullpen in 2018 and became one of the team’s best relievers in the majors after only 11 minor-league outings.

Domínguez’s electric repertoire quickly translated to the relief role, prompting his rise to Philadelphia. The hope entering the season was that things would click similarly for Morales.

“I’m not going to say it’s like Seranthony,” Fightins manager Shawn Williams said of Morales’ use as a reliever before the season. “But once Seranthony went to the ‘pen, that was pretty darn good, too.”

So far, so good for Morales, who excelled in late innings for Reading. He allowed one run this season and struck out 15.43 batters per nine innings.

No one should expect Morales to flat out dominate as a rookie the way Domínguez did when he joined the Phillies, but the plan for the new major leaguer has certainly been a success so far; his power stuff has shone, and he’s moved his way up in the system in a short span.

Morales will now provide a boost to a Phillies bullpen that left a bad impression in its last opportunity, blowing a six-run lead in the ninth inning of Thursday’s game before two rainouts in the subsequent days.

The next week will be a challenge for the entire Philadelphia pitching staff. Now down a starter in Eflin, the Phillies will play nine games in eight days as they travel to Seattle for three games and then Los Angeles for four after Sunday’s set of two.


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