Eflin feels better in return as results show

Eflin feels better in return as results show

ATLANTA -- Zach Eflin said he finally feels like himself on the pitcher's mound.

It will be his job to turn those feelings into consistent success the remainder of the season. Eflin earned more opportunities following a splendid performance Tuesday night in a 5-2 victory over the Braves at SunTrust Park, his first start with the Phillies since May 28. He allowed seven hits, two runs, one walk and struck out three in seven innings. He got 12 outs on ground balls, inducing weak contact with his two-seam fastball.

He hasn't enjoyed success like that as much as he would like this year.

"It's just been one of those years," Eflin said. "I've pitched really good and I've pitched very bad. I went through some mechanical stuff at Triple-A and I feel like I'm right now. I'm back to my old self, attacking the zone and getting ahead of guys. Throwing in and all of that stuff. I feel comfortable on the mound."

Eflin on his pitching in win

Eflin, 23, replaced Phillies right-hander Clay Buchholz in the rotation in April. He posted an impressive 2.81 ERA in his first five starts, pitching seven innings in three of them. But then he allowed 22 runs in his next three, prompting the Phillies to option him to Triple-A Lehigh Valley.

Eflin's struggles continued from there. He felt soreness in his right elbow in his first start with the IronPigs. He eventually returned, but went 1-4 with a 4.57 ERA in eight games (seven starts) with Lehigh Valley.

The Phillies are looking for their young starters to step up before the end of the season. Eflin started Tuesday because Jake Thompson struggled in his last start last week against the Angels and was optioned.

"I want to be a part of this team and this future," Eflin said. "I want to go through the ups and downs with all of these guys. I want to be here. That's the only thing on my mind. I want to pitch well and I want to be here and I want to win a lot of ballgames. I just have to keep working every single day and stick to the game plan and feel comfortable on the mound."

Eflin said he feels comfortable because of an adjustment he made: At the beginning of the season, he moved to the left side of the rubber so he could throw more sinkers to lefties. But when he pitched successfully last season he pitched from the right side, because it made his offspeed pitches better.

So Eflin compromised -- he moved to the middle.

"It's been very comfortable," Eflin said. "I can still attack with the two-seamer on both sides of the plate. My offspeed is sharper from that side. I just feel comfortable."

Eflin threw just 70 pitches through six innings when he opened the seventh with a walk and two singles. But after a visit from Phillies pitching coach Bob McClure, Eflin retired the next three batters he faced to end the inning and secure his first win of the year.

"Obviously you want to go the whole game like you do every game, but to be able to hunker down and get the guys out that I needed to get out was really big for me," Eflin said. "Especially after going down and working on everything I needed to work on in Triple-A and coming back up. I needed to prove to myself that I could fight through adversity and get through that inning."

Todd Zolecki has covered the Phillies since 2003, and for MLB.com since 2009. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.