CLEARWATER, Fla. – Jerad Eickhoff was scheduled to pitch four innings in his third start of the spring, but the heart of the Toronto Blue Jays' order made sure that didn't happen.
Eickhoff gave up seven hits and four runs in three innings of work Thursday in the Phillies' 6-4 loss to the Jays (see story). He ran into trouble in the second inning when he gave up a two-run triple to Ryan Goins and again in the fourth inning when Jarrod Saltalamacchia took him deep over the right field wall.
"Results-wise, looking at the scoreboard, it wasn't what I wanted, but actually I located a lot more fastballs than I had in previous outings that I was really happy with," Eickhoff said. "I think just leading up to the end of the at-bats when they were getting hits, I didn't set up the pitches like I wanted to and that resulted in good swings."
Manager Pete Mackanin said didn’t think Eickhoff's location was where it needed to be, but more importantly, he felt like he didn’t show his curveball enough.
“We talk to him about mixing his pitches up and he didn't do that today,” Mackanin said. “Too many fastballs for a fastball-hitting team. He didn't mix it up enough. You see he's got that great curveball and you saw when he struck a few guys out they were [overmatched].”
Eickhoff struck out three, mostly on his 76 mph curveball, and walked two.
Mackanin said that what Eickhoff is doing during the spring isn’t a big concern of his as long as he is where he needs to be during the season. It’s during the season when Eickhoff will be expected to be one of the centerpieces of the starting rotation.
"I’m solid with Eickhoff," Mackanin said. "I feel very comfortable with him. I don't measure what he does in spring training by that much. What he does during the season, which I've seen, is important to me."
That being said, Eickhoff understands that his timing will have to improve as the spring goes on and he'll have to continue to show batters his secondary pitches to keep hitters from getting too comfortable at the plate. Attention to such details will help Eickhoff make the jump that the Phillies would like to see him in his third year with the team.
"It just takes time," Eickhoff said. "It takes the routine of the pitches to get out there and the reps and just getting in that atmosphere on the mound in front of those hitters. Like I said, I didn't set them up the way I probably like to. I did not execute the sliders like I usually do and that allowed them to sit on the fastball."
Right now Mackanin suspects Eickhoff and most of the pitchers are trying different things on the mound and trying certain pitches in situations they might not otherwise. Mackanin credits Eickhoff for improving in some areas, like holding runners, and now believes it’s just going to be about consistency and execution.
"It's just a matter of knowing the hitters, following the game plan and being able to command your pitches," Mackanin said. "That's what it boils down to."