Zach Eflin makes good first impression with Rays after big deal

Zach Eflin #24 of the Tampa Bay Rays delivers a pitch to the Minnesota Twins in the first inning during a Grapefruit League Spring Training game at Tropicana Field on March 02, 2023 in St Petersburg, Florida. (Photo by Julio Aguilar/Getty Images)

The most expensive free agent in Tampa Bay history made a good first impression with the Rays.

Zach Eflin struck out three of four Minnesota Twins batters on Thursday in his first spring training start, a game played at Tropicana Field. The right-hander signed a $40 million, three-year contract during the offseason, the most money the Rays have given to a free agent.

"Felt really good," Elfin said. "Felt like I was in control. I felt like my offspeed was pretty good today, which is kind of a good foundation to start with."

Eflin began last season in Philadelphia’s rotation but his last start was June 25 before being sidelined by right knee soreness. He returned Sept. 14 and made seven appearances out of the bullpen with a 1.17 ERA, then pitched in relief in 10 postseason games for the National League champions. He threw 4 1/3 scoreless innings over four World Series games.

READ: Tampa Bay Rays' Tyler Glasnow will be out 6 to 8 weeks due to oblique strain

His 2021 season was cut short by a torn patellar tendon in his right knee that required surgery. He had surgery on both knees in 2016, the same year he made his big league debut with the Phillies.

Eflin joins a Rays rotation that includes All-Star lefty Shane McClanahan and right-hander Drew Rasmussen. Tyler Glasnow, a 6-8 righty, is expected to miss six to eight weeks with an oblique injury.