CLEARWATER, Fla. – Phillies right-hander Jerad Eickhoff pitched two innings, allowed a hit, a run, walked one and struck out two in his spring debut on Monday.
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Afterward, manager Pete Mackanin was asked what he believed Eickhoff's ceiling was.
"He's a pretty darn good pitcher right now," Mackanin said.
Indeed, he is.
In his first full season in the majors last year, the 26-year-old right-hander led the Phillies' starting staff in ERA (3.65), starts (33) and innings pitched (197 1/3).
He delivered 20 quality starts and became just the fourth Phillie in the last 20 years to make 33 starts and record a 3.65 ERA or better, joining three pretty good pitchers named Cole Hamels, Roy Halladay and Curt Schilling. He walked just 1.92 batters per nine innings and that was fourth-best among NL starters.
"Eickhoff is the kind of guy you can count on," Mackanin said. "He throws strikes. He knows what he's doing."
Eickhoff is intent on building on last year's success in 2017. The guy has a Roy Halladay-like work ethic. He arrived in Clearwater on February 1 and got right to work. After his two innings of work on Monday, he put in a couple of hours in the weight room and on a back field running.
"I just have to continue working," he said. "I have a very high standard for myself as a lot of us in here do. We want to be the best players that we can be."
Eickhoff is working on improving his changeup this spring and his overall goal is to make every start - as he did last season.
"That's the priority - make every start," he said. "That's always a priority for me.
"I'd also like to incorporate the changeup a little more and use my slider and curveball and not get heavily reliant on one or the other, which happened several times last year and I think got me into trouble at times. So incorporating both for the duration of the season and just being more crisp with execution and location is my goal.
"I'm always looking to get better. I think the sky is the limit. I'm going to continue working, whether it's being Greg Maddux-esque with command or having a good breaking ball, or throwing a changeup like Maddux and guys like that did. There's always something I'm working on and trying to develop and sharpen up."
Eickhoff lines up to start the second game of the regular season behind projected opening day starter Jeremy Hellickson.
The Phillies lost to the Tampa Bay Rays, 7-2. The Phils are 2-2 on the spring.
Maikel Franco had two hits, including his third homer of the spring. It was a long drive to left field on a 1-2 fastball. He also had a single to right field.
"The thing I like early in the spring from him is he's going deeper into counts," Mackanin said. "I think he's working toward a good year this year."
Non-roster player Brock Stassi, a candidate to win a job as a reserve first baseman and outfielder, did not play in the game. He, however, has a single, double and homer in the first three games.
Mackanin gushed about Stassi's defense when asked about it Monday.
"He's one of the best first basemen I've seen in a real long time," Mackanin said. "He has no need to improve on his defense and I like the way he swings the bat. He's a real solid baseball player so he's a guy I really want to get a good look at."
Starting pitchers Jake Thompson and Zach Eflin are both projected to pitch at Triple A. Both have been slowed early in camp because of health reasons, but are progressing well. Thompson has a sore right wrist and Eflin is recovering from a pair of surgeries to address tendinitis in both knees.
Both pitchers will continue to throw in the bullpen this week and ramp up to live batting practice next week. There is plenty of time for both pitchers to get their arms ready to open the season. However, the Phillies may decide to take a cautious approach with Eflin and let him build some more strength in his knees before they turn him loose. He could stay in Florida for a couple of extra weeks before joining the Triple A club.
The Phillies host the Baltimore Orioles on Tuesday. Clay Buchholz will make his first start of the spring. Here is the Phillies' posted starting lineup for the game:
1. Freddy Galvis SS
2. Howie Kendrick LF
3. Odubel Herrera CF
4. Maikel Franco 3B
5. Michael Saunders DH
6. Tommy Joseph 1B
7. Chris Coghlan RF
8. Cameron Rupp C
9. Scott Kingery 2B