By Annie Ross
Zach Eflin made his major league debut yesterday against the Blue Jays.
Let’s see how he did!
Eflin was called up from Triple-A Lehigh Valley to start in place of the injured Vince Velasquez, and he struck out two of the first three batters he faced — Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion — on hard sliders.
After that, however, things went south.
The 22-year-old right-hander lasted just 2 2/3 innings, giving up nine runs (eight earned) in an 11-3 loss to the Blue Jays.
Three of the nine hits Eflin allowed were home runs, and he also walked three. He became the first Phillies rookie to allow eight earned runs in a game since Gavin Floyd on April 19, 2005.
“This was his major league debut, and I suppose he was a little nervous,” Phillies manager Pete Mackanin said. “He just made a lot of bad pitches. He normally locates a lot better than he did. He was just up in the zone with all his pitches and got hit. Sorry to see his debut turn out that way, but this is a good lineup, and he can’t make mistakes to them.”
The big blow from Toronto came in a six-run third inning, when reigning American League MVP Award winner Josh Donaldson took Eflin into the second deck with a grand slam for a 9-0 Blue Jays lead. Known for his ability to keep the ball down and command his fastball, Eflin didn’t display those tendencies in Toronto.
“You’ve got to forget about it,” Eflin said. “Obviously, I’ll remember it for the rest of my life, but from a pitching standpoint, I’ve got to bounce back. I’ve got to throw quality strikes and get ahead of the hitters.”
“You just got to keep him calm, don’t let him get to himself, don’t let him get down about himself,” added catcher Cameron Rupp. “Just tell him, ‘Come on, you can do it, you got one pitch left, you got two outs, you’re one pitch away.’ And then it was tough for him not to get it. He battled, he never gave in to those hitters, and that’s a good lineup, too. You can’t make mistakes to that lineup and those guys, and they got him when he did.”
Acquired from the Dodgers as part of the Jimmy Rollins deal in 2014, Eflin’s Major League debut came in front of a packed house at Rogers Centre. In the first row behind the Phillies’ dugout were Eflin’s father, grandparents, two sisters, girlfriend and her brother.
“It was very special,” Eflin said about having his family on hand. “Especially because they had their passports and everything ready for whenever and whatever happened, so it was awesome to have them here.”
While the Phillies are unsure of what the season holds for Eflin as far as a permanent spot in their rotation, they do expect him to get another outing. The 6-foot-6, 215-pound right-hander knows he’ll have to make some tweaks in order to have a better performance his next time out.
“Really make sure I limit my pitches up in the zone,” Eflin said. “I need to make sure that I focus on every pitch and work down in the zone and really don’t give them anything to hit, and go from there.”