Eflin undergoes knee surgery to fix chronic issue

Rookie right-hander, Nola expected to be healthy by Spring Training

Eflin undergoes knee surgery to fix chronic issue

PHILADELPHIA -- The Phillies will enter the offseason hoping that two of their top young pitchers will be healthy and ready to pitch by Spring Training.

The team announced Friday afternoon that right-hander Zach Eflin had season-ending surgery to repair the patellar tendon in his right knee. He will be immobilized for the next six weeks, which will allow a stress fracture in his right foot to heal. Eflin is expected to have the same surgery on his left knee in six weeks.

"It seems like that's where it's headed," Phillies general manager Matt Klentak said about the second surgery. "If everything proceeds according to plan, he should be no problem for Spring Training. We'll see.

"The hope here is that it's going to alleviate the problem and that he's not going to have to deal with it. And in just talking candidly with Zach last night, while not excited to undergo the knife today, he was pretty excited about the possibility of coming to Spring Training next year pain-free for the first time in his life."

Eflin, 22, said he has had knee problems since he was 10 or 11 years old, a problem the Phillies said they have known since they acquired him from the Dodgers in December 2014 in the Jimmy Rollins trade. But they also said they also did not believe two knee surgeries were an eventuality.

"There was not an imminent surgery looming when we talked about Zach Eflin in Spring Training, for example," Klentak said. "But we know that it's something he's battled and knew it was a possibility that one day this would come, but didn't know if or when, specifically." 

Before the Phillies placed Eflin on the 60-day disabled list, they placed right-hander Aaron Nola on the 60-day DL on Wednesday because of a low grade sprain of his UCL and a low grade strain of his flexor pronator tendon. He received a PRP injection into the elbow Monday. Nola will not throw for four weeks.

The Phillies hope to see improvement at that time. They said surgery for Nola is not a consideration at this point.

Nola's five terrific innings

"Would we like all these guys to pitch a full season and reach certain benchmarks and accomplish all their goals? Well, yeah," Klentak said. "We want that for all of our players. A lot of our guys have made a lot of progress this year. Injuries to pitchers, that's part of how baseball works."

The Phillies acquired Jeremy Hellickson and Charlie Morton last winter to stabilize an inexperienced rotation. Hellickson could return next season, if the Phillies make him a qualifying offer and he surprises them and accepts it. But even if Hellickson returns, it seems likely the Phillies will acquire another veteran starter in the offseason.

"I think that's the plan," Phillies manager Pete Mackanin said. "I think that's what we have to do. We have to make at least some progress for next year and you know, the younger guys, they have to do something to get promoted. We're not going to run guys up here if we don't think they're ready. So it's going to be interesting to see what happens over the winter and then what happens in the spring."

Eflin went 3-5 with a 5.54 ERA in 11 starts. He got hit hard in his big league debut against the Blue Jays in June. He posted a 2.08 ERA in seven consecutive starts from June 19-July 22 before posting a 13.85 ERA in his final three starts.

"I'm not overly concerned about Nola ,and I'm not concerned about Eflin, because he's had that for a long time, and I think with it behind him now and getting it taken care of, he's got to feel good about that," Mackanin said. "I expect him to be 100 percent, probably better than this year. Nola, time will tell. Perhaps the time off will really help him."

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.