The Phillies announced they’ve activated righty Zach Eflin from the 60-day injured list. To open a spot on the 40-man roster, Philadelphia recalled right-hander Mark Appel from Triple-A Lehigh Valley and placed him on the MLB 60-day IL.
Eflin returns to the active roster for the first time since June 26. The 28-year-old has been bothered by a right knee contusion, the continuation of career-long issues with the joint. He’s undergone surgery on the knee in both 2016 and ’21, and while he didn’t need to go under the knife this time around, the club no doubt factored in his injury history in determining how quickly he could ramp back up. Eflin just began a minor league rehab assignment last Friday, tossing two innings and 27 pitches in Lehigh Valley. After one game, he’s ready to jump right back to the big leagues.
The rehab stint had to be expedited by the lack of time remaining on the regular season schedule. There’s a bit more than three weeks to play, and the 78-62 Phils are battling for their first postseason appearance in over a decade. Philadelphia is 1 1/2 games up on the Padres for the National League’s second Wild Card spot, with a three-game cushion between themselves and the only viable threat to bump them out of the playoff picture entirely, the Brewers.
There wasn’t sufficient time to build Eflin back to a traditional starter’s workload, so he’ll move into the bullpen for interim skipper Rob Thomson. Philadelphia’s relief corps has been middle-of-the-pack this season. That’s a marked improvement over the past couple years, but the Phils recently lost Corey Knebel for the season. Trade deadline acquisition David Robertson, Seranthony Domínguez (himself recently activated from the injured list) and Connor Brogdon have emerged as Thomson’s top right-handed options.
Working from the bullpen is unfamiliar territory for Eflin, who has started 115 of his 120 MLB appearances. He’s been a reliable mid-rotation arm for the majority of that time, posting an ERA between 3.97 and 4.37 in each of the past five years. Eflin has been one of the game’s most consistent strike-throwers, and while he hasn’t missed many bats, he’ll be one of the steadier rotation options available on this winter’s free agent market.
Appel’s season comes to an unfortunate early close. He’s battling inflammation in his throwing elbow, according to the club’s transactions log at MLB.com, and the 60-day minimum officially closes the books on his returning this year. Appel’s most recent appearance with Lehigh Valley came on September 3, and he landed on the minor league injured list not too long thereafter.
It’s a disappointing conclusion to the year, but 2022 has to go down as a resounding success for the former first overall pick. Appel never reached the big leagues with his original organization, the Astros, and he looked as if he’d never appear at the highest level after stepping away from the game following the 2017 campaign. Appel made a comeback effort last year, and he remained in the Philadelphia system this season. Appel earned his long-awaited first promotion in mid-June, and he finishes the season with 10 1/3 innings of two-run ball in the big leagues.
Philadelphia will pay Appel at the prorated $700K MLB minimum rate for the rest of the season to temporarily remove him from the 40-man roster. The 31-year-old is in his second of three minor league option years and can continue to bounce on and off the Phils active roster next season.