Eflin extends slump as command still elusive

Phils starter tagged for 7 runs in 9-4 loss to Dodgers

Eflin extends slump as command still elusive

LOS ANGELES -- Phillies right-hander Zach Eflin has remained calm throughout his recent three-start skid.

Turning red is not his style.

But he knows he must improve. He allowed seven hits, seven runs, two walks and three home runs in just three innings Monday night in a 9-4 loss to the Dodgers at Dodger Stadium. Chase Utley accounted for one of those runs when he hit a solo home run to right field in the second inning.

Eflin is 0-2 with a 13.85 ERA in his last three starts, allowing 22 hits, 20 earned runs, nine walks, six home runs and striking out five in 13 innings. He is the third Phillies starter to allow six or more earned runs in three consecutive starts since 2000. Sean O'Sullivan ('15) and Joe Blanton ('12) are the others.

"It could be mechanical, it could be mentally," Eflin said about recently leaving pitches in the middle of the plate. "I've got to bear down and really execute the pitch. I haven't been doing that and I've got to do a lot better job doing that."

Eflin was 3-2 with a 2.08 ERA in seven starts before his recent slump, so his struggles have been a bit surprising.

"When he's got it, he's good," Phillies manager Pete Mackanin said. "When he doesn't have command, he's very hittable."

Mackanin mentioned Eflin has been recently battling knee soreness.

"There's a little soreness," Eflin said. "Kind of gone through it every single season. You kind of just wake up and see how you feel. Sometimes you get out there and you just don't feel like yourself. Today was one of those days, but no I don't think it's affected me the past three outings."

Eflin's struggles and injuries this season to Aaron Nola and Vince Velasquez are reasons why the Phillies probably want at least one veteran starter in their rotation next season. (There is a good chance they make a qualifying offer after the season to Jeremy Hellickson.) Not that veteran pitchers cannot struggle or get hurt, but the Phillies need more depth in their rotation as they enter Spring Training.

"A lot of young guys," Mackanin said. "They're going to have their ups and downs. I remember when Greg Maddux went to the big leagues for the first time, he wasn't as good as he turned out to be. There's a lot of learning to do and a lot of hard work ahead of them."

Eflin knows he needs to get back on track.

"We're looking for guys who are mentally tough and can overcome their struggles," Mackanin said. "When a pitcher is not pitching well, we want guys who are going to fight and battle their way out of it. We think he has that kind of makeup."

Said Eflin: "I've remained mentally tough throughout my whole career. I was brought up in a really good way by my father, realizing and looking at and analyzing situations and stuff. I'm pretty good on that. I really don't get too down on myself. I think about a loving family at home that are all healthy and safe, so I kind of look at it that way. I really kind of thank God more that I'm here and I kind of stay away from being upset or disappointed or being mad."

Todd Zolecki has covered the Phillies since 2003, and for MLB.com since 2009. Read his Phillies blog The Zo Zone, follow him on Twitter and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.