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Zach Eflin closing in on his return to the Phillies’ starting rotation

The right-hander, who has been sidelined since July 20 with a knee injury, is scheduled to make a minor-league rehab assignment Saturday night for double-A Reading.

Phillies pitcher Zach Eflin could make his return to the starting rotation next week.
Phillies pitcher Zach Eflin could make his return to the starting rotation next week.Read moreELIZABETH ROBERTSON / Staff Photographer

PHOENIX -- Zach Eflin could make his return to the Phillies’ starting rotation next week.

Eflin, sidelined since July 20 with patellar tendinitis in his right knee, flew back to the East Coast on Thursday and is scheduled to start Saturday night at double-A Reading. He’s expected to throw approximately 35 pitches over two or three innings, according to general manager Sam Fuld, and if all goes well, his next start could be in the majors.

“I think it’s in conversation,” Fuld said. “Wait and see how it goes [Saturday], but yeah, I think it’s something we’ll talk about. It’s not out of the realm of possibility.”

Eflin threw 28 pitches over two innings against hitters last Sunday at Citizens Bank Park and didn’t report any problems. He traveled here with the team and threw a bullpen session this week that went well enough for the Phillies to decide to begin his minor-league rehab assignment rather than have him simulate another start.

The implication is that the Phillies want to maximize Eflin’s potential impact down the stretch. Although the right-hander would initially need to rebuild arm strength, Fuld said the Phillies believe he could be stretched back out for the final month of the season.

» READ MORE: Phillies' stretch-run storylines: Aaron Nola’s struggles, Zach Eflin’s knee, and Alec Bohm’s role

Eflin has completed at least six innings in 14 of 18 starts this season and has a 4.17 ERA in 105 2/3 innings.

“We see him being the Zach Eflin that we’ve seen in the past,” Fuld said. “We see him getting stretched out and having the ability to go deep into games.”

Upon his return, Eflin would almost certainly take lefty Matt Moore’s spot in the rotation. Moore, who is scheduled to start Friday night’s series opener in San Diego, tossed six no-hit innings last Saturday against the Cincinnati Reds.

But Fuld said “it seems unlikely” that the Phillies would discuss moving lefty Ranger Suárez back to the bullpen. When they put him in the rotation, they said they didn’t want to shuttle him between roles. In four starts, he has allowed four runs in 14 2/3 innings.

Nola vs. ... Nola?

Two years ago, Aaron Nola said he was happier to see his older brother, Austin, get called up to the majors than when he made his own debut in 2015.

The Nola boys may get to face each other Saturday night.

Aaron is set to start for the Phillies; Austin has been splitting time at catcher for the Padres, although Victor Caratini has been behind the plate for the majority of starts made by Joe Musgrove, San Diego’s scheduled starter Saturday.

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If Austin happens to be in the Padres’ lineup, it would mark the first time a Phillies pitcher faced his brother since Mike Maddux took on his younger brother, Hall of Famer Greg Maddux, on July 31, 1988. A pair of brothers faced off earlier this season when Kansas City’s Kyle Zimmer struck out his younger brother, Cleveland’s Bradley Zimmer.

Regardless, it’s an important start for Aaron Nola, who has struggled to a 4.48 ERA this season. He has alternated good and bad starts this month. In his most recent outing, he gave up four runs on six hits and lasted only 4 1/3 innings against the Reds last Sunday.

Extra bases

First baseman Rhys Hoskins (groin) “is in play” to come off the injured list Friday, according to Fuld. Hoskins has missed 16 of the last 19 games, including 12 in a row. ... With the Phillies facing a left-handed starter, righty-hitting Alec Bohm and Luke Williams made their first starts since Aug. 11 and Aug. 8, respectively. Bohm played first base, Williams center field. ... Infielder Freddy Galvis (quadriceps) was expected to play seven innings for triple-A Lehigh Valley. He will play for the IronPigs through the weekend and could be ready to return by next week. ... Lefty reliever José Alvarado (shoulder) played catch again and may progress to a bullpen session Friday. ... Moore (2-3, 6.07 ERA) is scheduled to face Padres left-hander Blake Snell (6-4, 4.80) on Friday night.