Wheeler, Eflin hit COVID-19 IL as Phils eye options

May 8th, 2022

PHILADELPHIA -- Phillies officials spent a good chunk of Sunday morning huddled in manager Joe Girardi’s office at Citizens Bank Park. Inside, they discussed an unwelcome roster crunch and the many ways they might handle it.

Both and  have been placed on the COVID-19 injured list, which is reserved for players who either test positive, show symptoms of COVID-19 or have been identified as close contacts of someone with the virus. Neither will travel with the team to Seattle following Sunday’s doubleheader against the Mets, leaving the Phillies without two-fifths of their rotation.

There is never a good time for this, but it comes as the Phillies begin a seven-game road trip against the Mariners and Dodgers. The Phillies are covered with starting pitching through Tuesday. Right-hander Kyle Gibson and left-hander Cristopher Sánchez were set to pitch Sunday’s doubleheader in Philadelphia, while left-hander Ranger Suárez and right-hander Aaron Nola will start on Monday and Tuesday against the Mariners, respectively.

The Phillies have nobody scheduled to start on Wednesday in Seattle or Thursday in Los Angeles, unless Eflin or Wheeler (or both) are cleared before then.

“I’m hoping,” Girardi said.

A vaccinated player on the COVID-19 IL must receive clearance from Major League Baseball’s Joint COVID-19 Health and Safety Committee to be reinstated. That can happen as soon as the player is no longer deemed infectious. Unvaccinated players cannot return until they submit two negative PCR tests.

Eflin was on the COVID-19 IL last season, and MLB.com reported then that he was fully vaccinated. Wheeler’s vaccination status is unclear.

“We’ll figure it out,” Girardi said. “One of them could be back. We’ve just got to wait and see what happens.”

The Phillies are limited to replacements on the 40-man roster, unless they want to promote somebody and risk losing someone else via waivers. If the Phillies had three players on the COVID-19 IL, they could call up somebody not on the 40-man without the risk of losing somebody else.

At this point, the most likely internal option for one of those two spots is left-hander Bailey Falter, who opened the season with the team before returning to Triple-A Lehigh Valley to build arm strength as a starter.

Sánchez could be back, depending on how much he pitches on Sunday. He was the team’s 27th man for the doubleheader, so he could replace right-handers Francisco Morales or Connor Brogdon. Morales and Brogdon took the roster spots of Eflin and Wheeler.

“At some point, you’re going to use a lot of your bullpen,” Girardi said. “We don’t have necessarily a lot of people built up.”