PHILADELPHIA >> Maybe Zach Eflin wanted to go out and buy a new Kia or Hyundai or something. Or at least a used Honda.
If Eflin was in search of ponying up money for a second car last weekend, the Phillies didn’t make it any easier by pulling $20,000 out of his pocket.
That’s what Eflin’s stunning demotion to the minors last Friday cost him, thanks to the loss of nine days’ service time. It came on the heels of Eflin’s start Friday night, a 2-0 loss in San Diego in which he pitched six strong innings with eight strikeouts but lost due to the Phillies’ ongoing hitting woes.
The move, according to Phillies’ brass, was administrative, allowing Eflin to split the 10-day mandatory minor assignment around a start for the Phillies in one of the doubleheader games against the Mets Thursday.
The move had enabled the Phillies to activate long-missing infielder J.P. Crawford, who has since been sent to Lehigh Valley. It also enabled them to make such a move to temporarily bolster their bench without Eflin being subjected to missing a start, thanks to how the schedule fell.
But it didn’t make the sudden drop any easier to take for Eflin.
“It’s been different being away from the team, but at the end of the day we all understand the move,” Eflin said prior to the game against the Boston Red Sox Wednesday. “It just wasn’t too easy to swallow. The only thing you can do is be positive and move forward and use it as motivation.
“I’m pretty much over it. I understand the move and everything that happened with it. The first couple of days weren’t the easiest, but you kind of get over it and you understand it, move forward, and use it as motivation.”
Eflin is 8-4 with a 3.57 ERA. It had to be weird for him, since he’s been working out here, threw a bullpen here the other day, had breakfast with manager Gabe Kapler, in Philadelphia ...
“It took a couple days,” Eflin said. “I went out to breakfast with Kap the other day and talked some things through. But at the end of the day, I think it was just time. The first couple days weren’t easy but being here, being able to be on the taxi squad, and being around the guys, it was good to be around them. I’m just looking forward to staying as positive as I can.”
But about those 20G’s ... could have bought a nice boat, no?
“I think what everyone is focused on is me losing service time or losing money,” Eflin said. “But the only thing I’ve been worried about the whole time is being away from my teammates and losing those eight days of relationships in the middle of a pennant race. That’s what affected me the most.
“I could care less about the money I missed or the days I missed. It’s more about the relationships and the brothers you have in this clubhouse that I was missing out on.”
A lot of those brothers had expressed support for Eflin after the move was made.
“The team has my back, that’s for sure,” Eflin said. “A lot of guys came up to me and offered their support. The staff as well. ... I think that’s a huge thing in building chemistry throughout the clubhouse. I know if I was in that situation and it happened to someone else, I would offer my same support. It’s good to know that we’re all in this together.”
As the Eflin buzz continued in the clubhouse, another sting landed when popular catcher Andrew Knapp was sent down to the IronPigs Wednesday.
While Knapp never lit up the stat sheet (.217 average, four homers, 15 RBIs and .664 OPS in 68 games) and isn’t considered one of the more defensively gifted catchers around, his presence in the clubhouse was undeniable.
So is his popularity with the manager.
“A difficult one, mainly because he’s adored by our staff and the players,” Kapler said. “He’s got some extraordinary leadership characteristics. One of the things I mentioned to Knappy that I think is really important is that when he’s working on his craft in the Lehigh Valley that he stay in touch with our pitchers, that he watches our games and that he provides counsel. The same kind of counsel as if he was sitting at a clubhouse locker next to one of our starters. He can give that same kind of feedback, on the phone via FaceTime, via text or however he chooses to do so.”
The move was predictable since Wilson Ramos, acquired at the non-waiver trade deadline from Tampa Bay, was activated off the injured list for his first game as a Phillie Wednesday.
Ramos was behind the plate, and recent acquisition Justin Bour was at first base for the game against the Sox. Kapler says the Bour appointment won’t be a regular one.
“(Carlos) Santana’s going to play every day,” Kapler said. “Santana’s going to play regularly. Bour is going to be a weapon off the bench for us, but we can’t see the future in its entirety. Right now Bour is a weapon off the bench for us but he can start for us occasionally.”
It wasn’t long into Santana’s unusual night off that he came on as a pinch-hitter and stroked the game-tying hit Wednesday night.