Jerad Eickhoff hitting location, but Pete Mackanin wants to see more curveballs

Jerad Eickhoff hitting location, but Pete Mackanin wants to see more curveballs

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."

Phillies 7, Blue Jays 1: Velasquez and Joseph show off their power

Phillies 7, Blue Jays 1: Velasquez and Joseph show off their power

BOX SCORE

DUNEDIN, Fla. -- The Phillies showed a little power in their 7-1 victory over the Toronto Blue Jays on Monday night.

Tommy Joseph provided some of it.

Vince Velasquez provided a lot of it.

Joseph crushed a two-run home run to left field and also lined a double off the center-field wall on his way to a four-hit game. The double came off his bat at 109 miles per hour. The homer was his third of the spring.

Meanwhile, Velasquez showed off his big fastball in striking out seven Blue Jays over five innings of work. Vinny Velo's final pitch of the night was a 97-mph dart past a swinging Jose Bautista.

"That pitch felt really good coming out of my hand," Velasquez said. "Sometimes my fastball slips a little bit and I yank it, but this one I got right behind and threw it right through the catcher."

Velasquez actually struck out the side in that fifth inning against three pretty good hitters in Russell Martin, Josh Donaldson and Bautista.

"That last inning, he really let it go," manager Pete Mackanin said.

Pitch economy remains an area that Velasquez needs to improve on. He threw 87 pitches. But he was pleased with the way he attacked hitters in that final inning of work.

"I didn't attack in one inning," he said. "But in that last inning, I stopped fiddling around and trusted my stuff. I need to do that the whole time."

Velasquez gave up just one run, a homer to Martin. He allowed five hits and walked two.

Velasquez had a busy night. He drove home a run with a ground out against Aaron Sanchez. He also walked against Sanchez and scored a run on a dash home from third base after Freddy Galvis got hung up between first and second. Galvis waved Velasquez home. After crossing home plate, Velasquez, rather humorously, almost ran into the netted backstop.

"I just had momentum. I got excited," he said. "As soon as I saw Tulo (shortstop Troy Tulowitzki) make eye contact with Freddy, I booked it. He's going to think, 'Pitchers can't run,' so I showed off my athleticism."

After the outing, Velasquez pronounced himself ready for the regular season.

"I'm good to go," he said.

He made five Grapefruit League starts and gave up eight runs in 19 2/3 innings. He walked nine and struck out 25.

"It's been a strong, healthy, successful spring training," he said.

Velasquez will likely start the home opener on April 7. He will need to get some work in this weekend. The Phillies leave Florida on Friday. He could stay behind for a day and pitch at the minor-league complex if needed.

Offense clicks
The Phillies had 12 hits. They had 15 in Sunday's 6-3 win over the Pittsburgh Pirates.

Up next
The Phillies play the Blue Jays again on Tuesday night. That game will be in Clearwater. Aaron Nola will start against Marco Estrada.

Andrew Knapp to make Phillies' roster -- remaining roster decisions are close

Andrew Knapp to make Phillies' roster -- remaining roster decisions are close

CLEARWATER, Fla. -- The pathway for Andrew Knapp to make the Phillies' opening day roster as the backup catcher was cleared way back in November when he was added to the 40-man roster.

The job all but became Knapp's on Monday when the team released two veteran catchers who were not on the 40-man roster. When Ryan Hanigan and Bryan Holaday were let go, Knapp became one of just two catchers in camp, the other being starter Cameron Rupp (see story).

So it's pretty obvious that the 25-year-old Knapp will open the season with the big club -- even though nothing will become official until rosters are filed with the commissioner's office this weekend.

"Obviously there are four or five days left," Knapp said. "I'm just going to keep trying to make good impressions and try to win a job. I'm keeping my head down, trying not to think about it too much."

Knapp was the Phillies' second-round draft pick of Cal-Berkeley in 2013. He has never played in the majors.

"It would be a dream come true," he said. "Everyone hopes to get called up at some point but to make a team on opening day would be pretty special and it would be the best moment in my career so far."

Phillies manager Pete Mackanin acknowledged that Knapp would probably make the club.

Mackanin would like to have the rest of his roster in order over the next day or two.

"As soon as possible," he said. "Because the last four or five games I'd like to play almost as if it were a season -- using the bullpen that way, using the bench in a certain way, seeing what it looks like, our bench guys, all our hitters. We just don't want to make a bad decision so we're just going to string it out as long as we can."

Roster questions must still be answered on the bench and in the bullpen.

How does the bench shape up? Andres Blanco, Aaron Altherr and Knapp are set. The Phils are expected to go with a five-man bench so that leaves two openings. There are four players vying for those spots: Chris Coghlan, Daniel Nava, Brock Stassi and Jesmuel Valentin. Valentin has impressed, but at 22 years old, he would benefit from playing every day at Triple A.

Mackanin praised Stassi's work on Monday. If Stassi makes the club, the final spot would come down to Coghlan and Nava.

"Stassi has obviously made a great impression, mainly because, not necessarily because of his results, but the fact that he had a lot of quality at-bats," Mackanin said. "It looks like he can handle making adjustments to the different pitchers and different situations. He seemed to handle left-handers well. He made a good impression, as has Coughlan. Nava has also been consistent throughout the spring."

Stassi, Coghlan and Nava are all non-roster players so the Phils would have to clear 40-man roster space to add any of them.

Two spots remain open in the bullpen. Adam Morgan, Joely Rodriguez, Luis Garcia, Alec Asher and Cesar Ramos are the candidates. All but Ramos is on the 40-man roster.

How will this all shake out?

More answers are probably coming Tuesday.