Phillies Speed Up Preparation, But Pitcher Zach Eflin Backs Off

CLEARWATER, Fla. - With the exhibition season starting in a week, the Phillies wasted no time having their hitters see live pitching.

Pitchers threw "live" batting practice on four fields during the first day of full-squad workouts Friday.

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The Phillies play their annual exhibition game against the University of Tampa on Thursday then open the Grapefruit League season the next day against the Yankees in Tampa.

"We start playing in a week so we want to make sure the hitters are ready," manager Pete Mackanin said.

During live batting practice, pitchers throw from the rubber but are behind a protective screen. The hitters know what pitches are coming. Some hitters simply track pitches with their eyes and do not swing. Others, particularly the young guys, let it rip.

Right-hander Zach Eflin did not throw. He was held back after experiencing some knee soreness.

"It's very mild," Mackanin said. "He said it was fine, but it's so early we decided to back him off a little."

Eflin suffered from chronic tendinitis in his knees for years. He had the problem addressed with a pair of surgeries in the fall and reported to camp feeling "great." This bout of soreness could simply be a normal post-surgery hurdle. But given the pitcher's history, it is a situation that bears watching.

Eflin projects to open the season atop the Triple A rotation.

In other health news, Freddy Galvis, who backed out of the World Baseball Classic because of groin tightness, participated in workouts and felt fine.

"Freddy looks good," Mackanin said. "We're just being cautious."

Mackanin addressed all the players in camp before the workout.

His message:

"Same old staples," he said. "Work hard, enjoy the fight to get to where you want to be. Don't be late. Do everything right. Follow the rules. And compete.

"You can see it in their eyes. They feel like they're going to be a better team this year. The attitude is good."

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