Zach Eflin gets shelled on his birthday as Rays lose to Angels 7-1, late Monday night

Eflin is struggling to start the new season as well as he did prior. The season is still young, and Eflin must remain optimistic to contribute like last year.
Tampa Bay Rays v Los Angeles Angels
Tampa Bay Rays v Los Angeles Angels / Kevork Djansezian/GettyImages

Florida native Zach Eflin turned 30 this week and made his third start of the young season on his birthday against the Los Angeles Angels, who seemed to ruin the party.

Eflin allowed nine hits, five earned runs, and a long home run to Mike Trout. He also had five strikeouts through the five innings that he pitched.

So far this season, he has a 6.35 ERA and a 1-2 win-loss record. Unceremoniously, he leads the American League in home runs allowed. In his first start of the season against the Toronto Blue Jays, Eflin threw 99 pitches in 5.2 Innings, allowing six earned runs with six strikeouts. What is worse than that, he gave up three home runs and hit a batter.

In his next start, against the World Series Champions, the Texas Rangers, Eflin pitched better. He tossed 6.1 innings, allowing one earned run with five strikeouts.

Even though this sounds concerning for Eflin as he begins the 2024 campaign, the season is still young, and many starts are yet to come as the Rays continue to count on him as their ace following Shane McClanahan's Tommy John surgery last season.

What is going to happen with Eflin?

While the Rays have tons of talented pitching who are on the injured reserved list, such as Taj Bradley, Jeffrey Springs, Drew Rasmussen, and McClanahan, many of them are likely to be back this season.

Therefore, what will happen to Eflin after all these guys are back? Will he be traded, released, or sent back down to the minors? The answer is that more than likely that he will stick around with the big club.

If Eflin pitches like he did last season, he has great stuff with a mix of curveballs and sinkers. He needs to control the walk ratio and the amount of home runs that he surrenders.

He would be fine if he can do just that. In 2023, he threw the curveball 26.3 percent of the time and threw his sinker 31.9 percent of the time. Furthermore, opposing batters struck out on those two pitches 126 times.

Eflin's Boost

On December 13, 2022, the Rays signed Eflin to a three-year, $40 million contract, the largest free agency signing in Rays History. Ever since the signing, Eflin has proved to be a competitive starter. He maintains a 16-8 record with 186 strikeouts in 177.2 innings during the 2023 season.

Furthermore, he finished in sixth place in the Cy Young voting as he gave up 24 walks with a 3.50 ERA. He did lead the Rays pitching in punchouts. This gave Eflin's morale a huge boost during this past offseason and spring training.

Eflin's starts this season have not been to the level of satisfaction for Rays fans or the club. Things are bound to change for Eflin, with pitching coach Kyle Synder helping him along the way. Eflin will remain the top starter for the Rays and will contribute to this organization with his best stuff to compete against the entire league. As long as the fiery righty stays positive and contributes, he still has a chance to salvage the season and lead the Rays in the A.L. East.