If Zach Eflin still harbored any resentment over the roster move that cost him nearly $20,000, a breakfast with manager Gabe Kapler might have helped quell those feelings.
Kapler met with Eflin earlier this week to explain why the Phillies had optioned the right-hander to triple A on Saturday, a day after Eflin turned in another strong start. The move cost Eflin nine days of major-league service time — and nine days of big-league pay — but will not cost him a start as Eflin will start one of the games of Thursday's doubleheader against the Mets.
"It just wasn't too easy to swallow," Eflin said. "The only thing you can do is be positive and move forward and use it as motivation."
Kapler reached out to Eflin to arrange a conversation away from the ballpark where the two would not be distracted by the ongoings of a major-league clubhouse. The manager was aware that the pitcher was upset to be leaving his team temporarily. The Phillies were creative with the roster move as optioning Eflin granted them an extra bench player for the final two games in San Diego and an extra reliever for the two games against the Red Sox. But that creativity came at a cost to a pitcher who was a big reason the Phillies reached first place this summer.
"I care deeply about our players and I care deeply about what they're thinking about. I thought it would be good to open up a line of communication without any distractions," Kapler said. "He's a pro and he's a stud. I want him to be strong."
Eflin threw a bullpen session early on Tuesday afternoon before leaving the ballpark before others arrived. He watched the series opener against the Red Sox from his apartment. He was able to spend Wednesday with the team as part of the taxi squad, as Eflin will join the roster as the 26th-man for the doubleheader. He will then report to triple A, where he must stay for the weekend before rejoining the Phillies.
"I think what everyone is focused on is me losing service time or losing money, 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," Eflin said. "That's what affected me the most. I couldn't 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."
Andrew Knapp was optioned to triple A to make room for Wilson Ramos, who was activated from the disabled list. Knapp was 2-for-his-last-22 and is batting just .217 with a .664 OPS. Kapler said Knapp could spend time at triple A in the outfield and at third base along with catching.
"One thing I mentioned to Knappy that I think is really important is when he's working on his craft in Lehigh Valley that he stay in touch with our pitchers, that he watches our games and provides counsel, the same kind of counsel as if he was sitting at a clubhouse locker next to one of our starters," Kapler said. "He can give that same kind of feedback on the phone via FaceTime, text or however he chooses to do so. He's that important to our club."