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Phillies set to activate pitcher Zach Eflin from injured list Tuesday

“My arm feels so refreshed,” said Eflin, who hasn't pitched for the Phillies since June 25 because of right knee pain. “It feels like April or May.”

Phillies right-hander Zach Eflin is expected to return from the injured list before Tuesday night's game in Miami.
Phillies right-hander Zach Eflin is expected to return from the injured list before Tuesday night's game in Miami.Read moreJOSE F. MORENO / Staff Photographer

Here’s the thing about Zach Eflin: He hasn’t pitched for the Phillies since June 25, but not because anything’s wrong with his arm.

“My arm feels so refreshed,” he said. “It feels like April or May.”

It was Eflin’s right knee that kept him off a mound in a game until Friday night. But after tossing two innings at triple-A Lehigh Valley without pain, he has been cleared to rejoin the Phillies next week. And he could provide a boost for a flagging pitching staff.

Eflin will be reinstated from the injured list before Tuesday night’s series opener in Miami, interim manager Rob Thomson said Saturday. He will be used in a relief role, although it’s also possible he could serve as an opener.

» READ MORE: Aaron Nola has seen it all with the Phillies — except the playoffs. And he wants in on the fun.

Regardless, Eflin figures he can help.

“When you’re a starter, you of go back and forth, in and out, try to switch up speeds and stuff,” Eflin said. “But when you’re coming in there as a reliever, you want to empty the tank. I’m sure there will be an uptick in some stuff.”

It’s too soon to know for sure, Thomson said. But after watching video of Eflin’s two-inning start for Lehigh Valley, Thomson noted a fastball that ranged from 92 to 94 mph. Eflin’s average velocity as a starter this season is 92.6 mph on his sinker, 93.1 mph on his four-seam fastball.

Eflin won’t have any restrictions, although Thomson said he isn’t likely to bring him into an inning with runners on base, at least not at the outset. All but five of Eflin’s 120 major league appearances are starts, so the Phillies won’t use him as a typical reliever.

Left-hander Ranger Suárez showed signs of fatigue entering his start Saturday night against the Washington Nationals. He hit a wall in the fourth inning of his previous two starts and had a 5.40 ERA in his last three starts.

If Suárez isn’t tiring, it wouldn’t be a surprise. He began Saturday night at 127⅔ innings after throwing 106 innings last season. His career-high workload is 139⅓ innings between two minor league levels and the majors in 2018.

» READ MORE: Aaron Nola has seen it all with the Phillies — except the playoffs. And he wants in on the fun.

There isn’t enough time left in the season for Eflin to build the arm strength for six- or seven-inning starts. But Thomson hinted that Eflin and Suárez — right-handed and lefty sinkerballers, respectively — could split starts, pitching at least three innings apiece.

“I think to start out with [Eflin] will be a guy that starts an inning,” Thomson said. “Then we’ll progress from there and see how he does. You never know. I know one thing: He can handle pressure. That’s not going to bother him.”

Watch the clock

If any Phillies pitcher has experienced the effect of a pitch clock, it’s Bailey Falter. Of the left-hander’s 20 starts this season, nine were in triple A, while 11 have come in the majors.

“I don’t really mind the pitch clock just because I feel like I work relatively quick, so it wasn’t really that big of a deal for me,” Falter said. “It was hard to get in a routine a little bit at first. I just try to be as quick as possible and try to get the guys in the dugout as quick as possible.”

Major League Baseball will adopt several new rules next season in an attempt to speed up games and inject more action into them. Among the rules will be a clock that will dictate that pitchers deliver the ball within 15 seconds with the bases empty and 20 seconds with a runner on base.

» READ MORE: Phillies promote pitching prospect Griff McGarry to triple A

According to Statcast, Suárez works at the fastest pace among Phillies pitchers, taking 16.3 seconds between pitches. Zack Wheeler (16.8 seconds) and Eflin (17.0) aren’t far behind. The slowest workers: relievers Andrew Bellatti (24.8) and Brad Hand (23.0).

Falter averages 19.5 seconds between pitches in the majors, but said he hasn’t noticed himself working any faster or slower compared to triple A. There’s been a notable difference in the time of his games. None of his triple-A starts lasted longer than three hours; all but three of his major-league starts topped three hours.

“I don’t think the pitch clock should be too big of a difference,” Falter said. “It’s going to be a little weird at first for some of these guys that never had it before. But I give it a week or two, and they’ll get back on page.”

Wheels back on

Wheeler threw 15 pitches off the bullpen mound — “A little touch and feel,” as Thomson described it — in the biggest step yet in his attempt to return from right elbow inflammation.

Thomson said Wheeler, who will go on the road with the Phillies next week, will throw a more intense bullpen session Monday or Tuesday, then at at least one more after that. It’s possible he could rejoin the rotation for the homestand that begins Sept. 20.

» READ MORE: Could Zack Wheeler rejoin Phillies’ rotation without a minor-league tuneup? He’s done it before.

Extra bases

Alec Bohm (hip flexor) didn’t start the game but likely will return to the lineup Sunday. Edmundo Sosa, riding a 10-for-15 wave with four doubles, one triple, and two homers in his last five games, took Bohm’s place at third base. . ... Nick Castellanos, sidelined with a strained oblique muscle in his right side, has not yet been cleared to swing at bat. ... Relief ace Seranthony Domínguez remains on track to come off the injured list Sunday, according to Thomson. … Minor league hitting coordinator Jason Ochart announced on Twitter that he won’t return next season. The Phillies have made several changes to minor league personnel within the last year and especially after Preston Mattingly took over as farm director. ... Aaron Nola (9-11, 3.35 ERA) will start the series finale Sunday against Nationals right-hander Aníbal Sánchez (2-5, 4.56).