Jerad Eickhoff, out all season with a lat injury suffered early in spring training, has taken the next step toward returning to the Phillies.
Making a rehab start in the first game of Double A Reading's doubleheader Tuesday morning, Eickhoff threw 53 pitches and allowed three runs (two earned) over 3⅓ innings. He struck out three, walked one and allowed a solo home run just before being pulled.
Eickhoff will likely make a couple more rehab starts to build up his pitch count to the 85-90 range.
Keep in mind, too, that with Zach Eflin pitching well, there's no rush on the Phillies' part to get Eickhoff back in the rotation. As long as all five starters are healthy, it makes the most sense to ease Eickhoff back in and start him once he's fully up to speed and confident.
About 14 months ago, many were high on Eickhoff. In 41 starts in 2015 and '16, he had a 3.44 ERA and 1.14 WHIP with 7.8 strikeouts per nine innings and 2.0 walks.
Then he struggled through pretty much all of 2017, going 4-8 with a 4.71 ERA in 24 starts. His walk rate nearly doubled, and his opponents hit .281 after hitting .243 the prior two seasons.
Eickhoff's curveball last season just didn't have the same bite, and hitters teed off on his fastball to the tune of a .341 batting average.
The hope is that the 27-year-old is over the back injuries and will revert to form. His swinging strike rate has decreased each season and that's something this Phils regime - from the front office to the dugout - values heavily.