News that Eflin's knee is still sore could prompt Phillies to explore trade


MIAMI – The Phillies received some troubling news Sunday morning when pitcher Zach Eflin reported to the ballpark with continued soreness in his injured right knee.

Eflin had tested the knee by pitching to hitters Saturday afternoon. After the mound session, he huddled with pitching coaches and an athletic trainer. It didn’t look good. Now, it’s confirmed.

The team had hoped Eflin could face hitters again over the All-Star break, but that will not happen. He will be examined in Philadelphia on Monday and there remains no timetable for his return.

“He came in a little sore today and so we’re going to back off and he’ll get it checked tomorrow,” manager Rob Thomson said before Sunday afternoon’s game against the Marlins. 

Eflin has a history of knee problems. He had surgery on both knees in 2016. He had another procedure in September of last year to repair a torn patellar tendon in the right knee.

Eflin and the team are both on record as saying the current issue is not related to the patellar tendon or the surgery he had in September. The current issue, according to Eflin and the team, is a bruise on the "fat pad" under the right patella. The injury occurred June 9 as Eflin made a fielding play in Milwaukee. He pitched with discomfort for three starts and shut down after his June 25 outing at San Diego. Eflin had hoped his stint on the injured list would be short and he’d return to pitch the bulk of the second half, but clearly the issue is lingering.

“I don’t think it went backward,” Thomson said. “It’s not worse than it was before.

“I think we’ll get him back at some point, I just don’t know when.”

Later Sunday, Eflin said he still expected to return this season.

"Absolutely," he said. "Without question. It’s getting better. It's just one of those things where (the soreness) has to go away before you get back out there or else it comes right back." 

Eflin’s absence has already been a blow to the team and will continue to be as long as he's out. The Phils have a solid starting rotation led by Zack Wheeler and Aaron Nola, but it only goes five deep. The Phils have plugged previous rotation holes this season with Bailey Falter and Cristopher Sanchez and one of them could jump in for Eflin after the All-Star break. But it’s also likely, if not imperative, that the team will look outside the organization for starting rotation help. The trade deadline is 16 days away. The Phils have needs in the outfield and the bullpen and Eflin’s condition raises the need for a starter.

The Phils dispersed for the All-Star break after Sunday’s game. Thomson said Kyle Gibson would start the first game back from the break Friday night at home against the Chicago Cubs. Wheeler will pitch on Saturday. The Phils’ rotation beyond that was undecided.

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