Phillies pitching staff features a June dud and a June stud and their identities might surprise you

Phillies pitching staff features a June dud and a June stud and their identities might surprise you


One pitcher entered this season with two no-hitters and a Cy Young Award in his trophy case.

The other entered this season in the minor leagues.

One pitcher is making $30 million this season, the highest one-year salary ever for a Philadelphia athlete.

The other is making $548,500, just over the major-league minimum of $545,000.

One pitcher went 0-4 with a 6.66 ERA in five starts in June.

The other went 5-0 with a 1.76 ERA in five starts in June.

The first pitcher’s name is Jake Arrieta.

The second pitcher’s name is Zach Eflin.

Eflin became the first Phillies pitcher to win five games in a month since Cole Hamels in May 2012 when he pitched seven shutout innings in leading a 3-0 win over the New York Yankees at Citizens Bank Park on Wednesday night (see first take).

There were so many impressive elements to Eflin’s month. For one, he did not allow a home run in 30 2/3 innings, which makes him the first Phillies pitcher since Roy Halladay in April 2012 to pitch at least 30 innings in a month and not allow a homer. He walked just six batters and struck out 28 in his five June starts.

This might be Eflin’s most important June feat: Four of his five wins came after Phillies’ losses. Wednesday night’s gem stopped a three-game losing streak and prevented the Phillies from being swept by the powerhouse Yankees in a three-game series. The Phils are 42-36 on the season and a hold-their-own 11-13 in June with three games remaining in the month.

The Yankees, who lead the majors in homers and OPS, had outscored the Phillies, 10-2, in the first two games.

Eflin, who turned 24 in April, held them to four singles and two walks while striking out six and throwing just 92 pitches in his seven innings of work. Seranthony Dominguez got the final six outs.

“Eflin was just outstanding,” manager Gabe Kapler said. “I leaned over and whispered to (bench coach) Rob Thomson in the middle of the game that, 'Nothing rattles him. It doesn't matter who the hitter is.'

“The guy was dominant all the way through June against some of baseball's best teams. And then tonight, it was just kind of the cherry on top as he went through a Yankees’ lineup that is arguably in the top five in baseball. So he did a tremendous job.”

The Phillies’ offense was hardly potent. It did all its scoring in one inning. But that scoring was enough — a three-run home run by Rhys Hoskins in the second inning. Hoskins has 12 homers on the season and 11 have given the Phillies a lead (see story).

Hoskins was happy to get the game’s biggest hit after going 0 for 8 with four strikeouts in the first two games.

But the first words out of his mouth after the win were in recognition of Eflin.

“He was huge,” Hoskins said. “We needed that. We needed someone to step up. He was big. He gave us seven strong innings and a big win.”

Eflin was the first piece added when the Phillies embarked on their rebuild after the 2014 season, the primary return in the trade that sent Jimmy Rollins to the Dodgers. When Eflin arrived, he was a sinker-baller who pitched to contact and relied on his defense. Nearly four years later, he’s added strength to his 6-6 frame, and he’s pitching on healthy legs after surgery to repair tendinitis in both knees. All of this has added velocity to his fastball. He still throws a sinking fastball, but he’s become more reliant on a power, four-seam fastball. He’s no longer a pitch-to-contact guy. He’s getting the swings and misses that Phillies management wants to see in its starters. He's throwing the ball by hitters.

He’s a different pitcher than the one the Phillies traded for.

“Absolutely,” Eflin said. “I came over here with a sinker and a changeup. Now I feel like I have a better arsenal. I’ve been a lot more impressed with my four-seam fastball. Being able to do that has really helped me a lot. It’s kind of cool to think you were one pitcher and then all of a sudden you’re a different pitcher. Being able to make that transition has been awesome.”

The transformation can be seen in the numbers. Eflin struck out just 4.7 batters per nine innings over 22 big-league starts in 2016 and 2017. This season, he is striking out more than nine batters per nine innings.

Pitching coach Rick Kranitz believes Eflin’s transformation has been part physical, part mental, part power on the fastball and part mindset driven by confidence.

“I think he’s comfortable in his own skin in general and he’s getting after it,” Kranitz said. “Guys don’t all of a sudden start getting swings and misses out of nowhere. He’s getting them because he’s trying to get guys to swing and miss.

“Zach, to me, was always very conservative throwing the baseball. Now, he’s not keeping anything in the tank. He’s pushing. Right from the get-go, he’s on the gas pedal. It’s a mindset. There’s a huge difference. What he did this month is as good as it gets.”

And beating the Yankees?

"It's pretty cool, very cool," Eflin said. "As a kid you dream of facing the Yankees, let alone play in the big leagues. To face the Yankees and go seven scoreless was awesome."

More on the Phillies

J.T. Realmuto feeling 'blessed' as he heads into arbitration showdown with Phillies

J.T. Realmuto feeling 'blessed' as he heads into arbitration showdown with Phillies

CLEARWATER, Fla. — Phillies catcher J.T. Realmuto will participate in Tuesday’s workout before taking a flight to Phoenix for Wednesday’s salary arbitration hearing.

Realmuto is dreading the long flight, not the hearing.

“One way or another, I’m going to be playing baseball in Philly this year,” he said. “I’m going to either be making $10 million or $12 million, and I’ll be happy either way. I’m blessed to get to do what I do for a living for a lot of money so either way, I’m happy.”

Realmuto is actually seeking $12.4 million. The Phillies have filed at $10 million. The arbitration panel will select one figure or the other. There is no middle ground (more details here).

Realmuto, who made $5.9 million last year, is in his third and final year of arbitration and is scheduled to become a free agent after this season. To date, the highest-paid catcher in that class was Matt Wieters, who avoided a hearing with Baltimore and made $8.275 million 2015. Catcher Mike Napoli actually made more — $9.4 million — in a negotiated settlement with the Texas Rangers in 2012, but he was in his fourth year of arbitration because of his Super-Two status with the Anaheim Angels in 2009.

So, no matter how the arbitration panel rules, Realmuto’s 2020 salary will be a record for an arbitration-eligible catcher.

Once Realmuto’s 2020 salary is established, the Phillies will turn their attention to negotiating a long-term contract extension with him. Realmuto is expected to seek in the neighborhood of $23 million per season, matching Joe Mauer’s record salary for a catcher, over a five- or six-year deal. 

The Phillies would like to get a deal done by opening day to avoid any potential distractions. Would Realmuto negotiate during the season?

“We haven’t gotten there yet,” Realmuto said. “I’ll talk with my agent and we’ll communicate with Matt (Klentak, the general manager) and let him know.”

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Joe Girardi asks Phillies players to give him their hearts — and their trots

Joe Girardi asks Phillies players to give him their hearts — and their trots

CLEARWATER, Fla. — Joe Girardi officially opened his first Phillies spring training camp by telling the players to give him their hearts.

“He knows if he can get our heart, he’ll get our best on the field,” J.T. Realmuto said.

Both Girardi and managing partner John Middleton stressed that the goal was to play deep into October. The Phillies have not been to the postseason since 2011.

Middleton reminded the players of the passion that Philadelphia fans have and urged them to give back to the fans by playing the game hard and respecting it.

Girardi roamed the fields of Carpenter Complex during the workout. He lightened the mood at the end of a base-running drill by asking a group of players, including Jean Segura, to show off their home run trots.

“Just to have some fun,” Girardi said after the workout.

The home-run trot "drill" came with some instructions.

“Make sure you run hard before you know it's out,” he told the players. “The big thing is if you run hard to first, there is a great chance it'll be out by then. Then you don't get caught on first base or caught on second base when you should be a base ahead. Just run hard.”

Phillies pitchers will begin throwing live batting practice during Tuesday’s workout.

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