The best solution to the Phillies’ injured SP problem

Eager to prove to their fans they are ready to win now, the Philadelphia Phillies are encountering two hurdles a bit higher than the others on the track. Moreover, it’s as though both hurdles are back-to-back and separated by only inches instead of the appropriate distance.

On March 15 two Phillies starters came down with back spasms – Spencer Howard, who was scratched from a start against the Yankees, and Zach Eflin, who experienced his spasms during a bullpen session.

With barely two weeks until Opening Day, it’s not a good thing when a team’s potential No. 5 starter and the actual No. 3 starter come up with balky backs.

One Philadelphia Phillies starting pitcher injury is especially worrying

Of these two seemingly minor matters, at least one has the potential to be a significant problem for the Phillies if it doesn’t resolve itself. While Howard is apparently is on no timetable to begin throwing again – it can be inferred his back is worse – and Eflin has begun to “play catch” again, it is the Eflin injury the Phillies should be taking great care with.

Spencer Howard’s injury, as Matt Breen has noted, seems to merely contribute to the “unlikely” chance he has of making the Phillies starting rotation. Chase Anderson appears to have the No. 5 slot sewn up, having given up no runs thus far in seven innings pitched – that is, barring any back problems he might develop.

The Phillies had reservations about Howard taking on a starter’s role anyway, considering his light workload last season. He seems destined for a trip to the Phillies alternate site in Allentown once spring training ends.

Zach Eflin, however, is a pitcher the Phillies are counting on this season. In 2018 and ’19 he pitched to 19 and 23 decisions, respectively, and an overall 21-21 record. Then last season, he was the Phillies only really effective starter in September when the team was still contending for a playoff spot.

He finished at 4-2 and with a career-best 3.97 ERA. He had the look of a maturing MLB pitcher, and a potentially very valuable one.

If Eflin isn’t able to start the third game of the season, it would seem that Matt Moore should slide into the third slot, Anderson into the fourth, and the fifth starter’s role would likely become a group project.

(The above sentence had to be written that way; it was the only apparent alternative to suggesting the Phillies might consider using Vince Velasquez to start.)

So, it was good to find out that Phillies manager Joe Girardi declared himself only “a little” concerned about Zach Eflin, and that his pitcher playing catch is considered “a ton of progress.”