Righty to receive second opinion; Eflin, Thompson options to fill in
By Ben Harris
PHILADELPHIA -- Nobody knows when or if the Phillies will see Clay Buchholz on the mound again.
The right-hander will seek a second opinion from Dr. James Andrews on Monday to determine a plan of action after an MRI revealed a partially torn flexor-pronator mass in his pitching arm.
Buchholz was pulled from Tuesday's 14-4 loss to the Mets after trying to pitch through pain in just his eighth inning as a Phillie.
When asked if he thought Buchholz could return before the All-Star break, Phillies manager Pete Mackanin declined to speculate.
"I don't know," Mackanin said. "I'm not a doctor."
Buchholz missed the final 2 1/2 months of the 2015 season with a similar injury.
If Buchholz misses time this season, it's difficult to picture the Phillies being able to trade him at the non-waiver Trade Deadline. Not many teams, if any, would give up a prospect for a recently injured pitcher with an injury-riddled past.
Buchholz's purpose on the Phillies is two-fold: stabilize a young rotation so the team doesn't have to prematurely bring up a starter and pitch well enough to be flipped at the Deadline.
His injury puts both of those at risk.
This potentially leaves the No. 3 spot in the rotation open. The Phillies have options to either replace Buchholz or kill time until a full plan is hatched.
The Triple-A Lehigh Valley rotation is one of the deepest in the Minors, and an off-day on Monday affords the Phillies the ability to skip Buchholz's spot in the rotation altogether and put off making a decision until April 22.
"We've got five starters in Triple-A Lehigh Valley that any one of them can come fill in," Mackanin said earlier on Wednesday before the MRI results were revealed.
Two of those pitchers made at least 10 starts in the big leagues last season.
Zach Eflin, pitching on healthy knees for the first time in a decade, threw well in his first start for Lehigh Valley on Tuesday. He has the most Major League experience in that rotation, having made 11 starts for the Philies in 2016.
Jake Thompson (10 starts, 5.70 ERA in 2016) is an alternative after spending the final two months of last season in the Majors. Nick Pivetta and Ben Lively -- both on the 40-man roster and top prospects per MLBPipeline.com -- could also fill in.
Ben Harris is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.