Prior to Friday’s game, the visiting Philadelphia Phillies and San Diego Padres had significant questions regarding Saturday’s third contest in a four-game series.

The Phillies answered their question when right-hander Zach Eflin (2-5, 4.43 ERA) was named the starting pitcher to face Padres’ left-hander Blake Snell (0-4, 5.46).

But the Padres were still contemplating the return of third baseman Manny Machado, who looked like he would be missing substantial time last Sunday when he turned his ankle while crossing the first-base bag.

Padres manager Bob Melvin said Machado isn’t ready to play third base. But could he pinch hit? Might he appear as the designated hitter?

“Remarkably, from the very beginning, it’s been amazing to see Manny playing catch and running a little bit Thursday and swinging the bat,” Melvin said.

“We’re certainly not going to be in a hurry with him, but we don’t want to jump the gun and put him on the injured list if we don’t have to. I don’t know when he plays. … Each and every day you listen more to the training staff and how he’s feeling. I would doubt a start yet. But we might use him.”

As for Eflin, he exited his most recent start last Sunday after just 38 pitches with a bruised right knee. He was evaluated Tuesday after the pitcher played long toss, and then moved up his bullpen from Thursday to Wednesday to get a better reading on the knee.

“My bullpen went really well,” Eflin said.

But it wasn’t until Friday that he received clearance to pitch Saturday, likely due to the fact that Eflin’s knee problem is nothing new. He had surgery on both knees in 2016 and had another round of surgery in September 2021 to repair the patellar tendon in his right knee.

Eflin will be making his 13th start of the season Saturday night and his second against the Padres. Back on May 17, he held the Padres to one run on five hits with five strikeouts over six innings in Philadelphia’s 3-0 loss. He is 1-2 with a 3.32 ERA in four career starts versus San Diego.

Before last Sunday’s two-inning outing at Washington, Eflin had allowed five runs on 14 hits with 12 strikeouts over 18 innings in his three previous starts.

Snell, meanwhile, is trying to get his bearings after spending the first six weeks of the season on the injured list with a left abductor strain. He’s made six starts. Twice he allowed two runs over six innings and was showing signs of his old form. But last Sunday in Colorado, he gave up five runs (four earned) on five hits and four walks with five strikeouts in 4 2/3 innings.

In addition to a career-high ERA, Snell has a 1.45 WHIP and a .232 opponents’ batting average. He has also issued 17 walks in 29 2/3 innings.

Snell’s first start this season was in Philadelphia on May 18. He gave up three runs on as many hits and three walks with five strikeouts in 3 2/3 innings. He is 0-2 with a 4.26 ERA in three career starts against the Phillies.

–Field Level Media