Four hours before game time Tuesday, a major slice of the fate of the Phillies’ season was already hard at work at Citizens Bank Park.
All three could be contributing to the team’s playoff chase in the not-too-distant future.
“All in all, really good,” manager Rob Thomson said after watching all three pitchers do their work. “Really encouraging day.”
Let’s break them down:
• Eflin, who has not pitched since June 25 because of right knee soreness, went through a normal pre-game warmup then threw two innings consisting of 13 pitches each against hitters in a simulated game. Eflin wore a brace on his right knee but didn’t appear to have any problems. He threw all of his pitches, hit 94 mph on the gun, according to Thomson, and was all smiles (a telltale he felt good) afterward.
“His stuff looked good,” Thomson said. “He’s not too far away.”
Eflin will be evaluated Wednesday to see how he responds. If he checks out, he could head out for a minor-league rehab outing soon. The goal is to get the right-hander back as a reliever or even an opener.
• Dominguez has been down for 2 ½ weeks because of right triceps tendinitis. He threw one inning to hitters in the simulated game and popped his fastball to 95-96 mph, according to Thomson.
“That’s really encouraging considering his down time,” Thomson said.
Dominguez, the Phillies’ closer, will be evaluated Wednesday and could be ready for a rehab assignment in the coming days. Thomson was not sure whether the right-hander would require one or two appearances before he’s ready to return to the back end of the bullpen.
• Wheeler missed his third start Tuesday night because of forearm/elbow inflammation. He had not thrown in five days because of lingering discomfort that required an MRI and ultimately showed no structural damage. He made 14 flat-ground throws at 40 feet and 15 at 60 feet and felt no discomfort.
“I don’t know,” Wheeler said. “I don’t ask questions. I just do what they say. Client No. 45.”
Thomson said Wheeler would likely play catch again in the next day or so and need a couple of “solid” bullpens before the team can determine when he’s ready to return to the rotation.
Wheeler believes he could have pitched through the forearm/elbow inflammation but he’s on board with the decision to take it slowly and potentially return healthy and fresh for his final few starts.
“Hopefully, if things keep going right,” Wheeler said of returning and impacting the playoff race. “That’s my goal. I’d never say definitely because you never know, but it’s my goal. I’ve never pitched in the playoffs and I want to pitch in the playoffs and help my team get there.”
While Eflin, Dominguez and Wheeler work their way back to the staff, prospect Griff McGarry continues to work his way toward the staff. The power-armed righty, who has racked up big strikeout totals in the minors this season, was moved to Triple A on Monday. His scheduled relief appearance that night was rained out and Lehigh Valley was off Tuesday. McGarry will pitch in relief on Wednesday and could be in play to join the big club at any time.
“He’s an option,” Thomson said. “Another really good arm. With Eflin, Seranthony and Wheeler coming back, we have a whole bunch of options.”