Rays 8, Phillies 0: Jerad Eickhoff sizzles, offense fizzles

Rays 8, Phillies 0: Jerad Eickhoff sizzles, offense fizzles

CLEARWATER, Fla. -- The Phillies have had their starting pitching rotation lined up for weeks, so it was no surprise to the men in that rotation when manager Pete Mackanin announced Sunday that Jeremy Hellickson would get the ball on opening day in Cincinnati in two weeks (see story).
 
Jerad Eickhoff was the runner-up for the opening day nod and will start the second game of the regular season. 

On Sunday, he looked like a guy who is ready.
 
The wide-shouldered right-hander struck out nine and walked none in six innings of two-run ball against the Tampa Bay Rays.
 
"He was outstanding," Mackanin said. "He struck out the 3-4 hitters six times, which is huge. The other thing that was really impressive, he's been working on a changeup and he threw a lot of them today. He changed speeds really well."
 
Eickhoff, 26, came to the Phillies in the July 2015 trade that sent Cole Hamels to Texas. In terms of upside, Eickhoff was widely considered the fourth-rated prospect in the deal behind pitcher Jake Thompson, catcher Jorge Alfaro and outfielder Nick Williams.
 
So far, Eickhoff has been the top producer on the Phillies' end of the deal. He led the staff in starts (33), innings (197 1/3) and ERA (3.65) last season.
 
"I always knew what I could do," he said. "I was just kind of thrown in [the Hamels deal]. People say that. But I knew what I could do. I knew my mentality and how I go about my business so I had confidence in that. To be given the opportunity and to be able to succeed as I have thus far, I've been very fortunate with that, very blessed to have that. It's a continuing process and I'm always looking to get better."
 
Perhaps the best testament to Eickhoff's emergence as a stalwart on the Phillies' staff came from Hellickson, who on Sunday said Eickhoff deserved the opening day start more than he did.
 
"I think a lot of Jeremy and he's done so much in this game, so for him to say that that's very cool to hear," Eickhoff said. "He deserves it as much as anybody. It's fun to watch him go about his business and go through a lineup like he does. It's a tremendous honor for him for sure."
 
Eickhoff has pitched his way into being a foundation piece in the Phillies' rebuild.
 
His chance will come.
 
"Yeah, one day," he said. "I hope so. But I'll be looking forward to seeing Jeremy out there on opening day."
 
The game
Eickhoff got no offensive support and the Phillies lost 8-0. The Phils had just three regular players in the starting lineup and did not have a baserunner until Tommy Joseph came off the bench and smacked a one-out double in the eighth.
 
The Phils finished with just two hits.
 
"Nobody wants to be on the losing end of a no-hitter," Joseph said. "So I guess it’s nice to not get no-hit. But it still doesn't feel too hot to get the loss either."
 
Joseph had not played in four days after being hit in the left hand by a pitch.
 
"Thankfully, Tommy Joseph came through," Mackanin said. "Other than that, no offense to talk about.
 
"We're not this bad. We're going to improve offensively."
 
Up next
The Phillies have an off day Monday. They travel to Fort Myers to play the Minnesota Twins on Tuesday.

Phillies trim roster, send Tyler Goeddel, Jake Thompson to minors

Phillies trim roster, send Tyler Goeddel, Jake Thompson to minors

CLEARWATER, Fla. -- With a week to go before they leave Florida, the Phillies made several roster moves on Friday morning.

Outfielder Tyler Goeddel, who spent all of last season in the majors, was optioned to the minor leagues.

Pitcher Jake Thompson, who made 10 starts in the majors for the Phillies last season, was also optioned to the minors. He is expected to open the season in the starting rotation at Triple A Lehigh Valley.

Goeddel, 24, joined the Phillies organization in December 2015 after being selected in the Rule 5 draft. He had originally been a first-round draft pick of the Tampa Bay Rays in 2011.

Players selected in the Rule 5 draft must spend an entire season in the majors or be exposed to waivers and offered back to their original club. The Phillies kept Goeddel all of last season, fully securing his rights, but he received only 213 at-bats and hit just .192 with four homers and 16 RBIs.

The news on Goeddel was not completely surprising. The wintertime additions of outfielders Howie Kendrick and Michael Saunders had made Goeddel a long shot to make the team.

"I knew going into camp I was going to have to earn my spot," he said. "There's a lot of guys in here that have been playing well. Whatever happened happened."

Goeddel needs to recoup some at-bats in the minor leagues. The question is: where? The Phillies have three top outfield prospects -- Roman Quinn, Nick Williams and Dylan Cozens -- who will require regular playing time at Triple A. It's possible that Goeddel could open the season at Double A.

Team officials discussed that possibility with him.

"They want me to get more at-bats," Goeddel said. "That's the main thing. Only getting 200 in your age-23 season is not enough.

"They said there's a chance I'm at Reading. I'm not too happy about that but you can't control it. That's where their most openings are and most consistent playing time.

"I want to play every day. It was tough last year playing sparingly. Getting at-bats is going to be great. Obviously, I wish it was up here. But at the end of the day, you can't control it."

Goeddel is still on the 40-man roster and as long as he stays on it can come back to the majors quite easily if a need arises.

"They said that," Goeddel said. "Last year (pitcher Alec) Asher started at Double A and was called up. They said that in there. They just want me to get at-bats. That was their main thing."

Thompson could be one of the first to return to the majors if a need arises in the starting rotation.

The 23-year-old right-hander was one of five prospects that the Phillies acquired from Texas for Cole Hamels in July 2015. He went 11-5 with a 2.50 ERA in 21 starts at Triple A last season and 3-6 with a 5.70 ERA with the big club.

The Phils also reassigned pitcher Dalier Hinojosa, catcher Logan Moore and infielder Hector Gomez to minor-league camp.

Twins 4, Phillies 2: Aaron Nola encouraged by good health, still looking for command

Twins 4, Phillies 2: Aaron Nola encouraged by good health, still looking for command

BOX SCORE

CLEARWATER, Fla. -- Aaron Nola has not had a great spring.

But in the big picture, well, maybe he has.

Nola was one of the Phillies' biggest and most important question marks coming into camp. He had missed the final two months of the 2016 season because of an elbow injury. All he needed to do this spring to be in the starting rotation was show that he was healthy.

He's done that.

He pitched 5 2/3 innings against the Minnesota Twins and threw 82 pitches in his fifth start of the spring on Thursday. He gave up six hits, including a two-run homer, walked one and struck out six.

He's up to 17 2/3 innings for the spring -- without an elbow issue.

"I'm over that," Nola said after the game. "My elbow feels really good. I haven't had any pain or problems with it. I don't even think about it throwing or in games.

"Everything has been very positive. My body is healthy."

Nola, who lines up to fill the fifth spot in the Phillies' rotation, hasn't had good results this spring. He has given up 19 hits and 13 earned runs. But, again, the Phillies were only looking for good health.

"He's been working on his changeup," manager Pete Mackanin said. "Today, he threw more changeups than I've ever seen him throw. The changeup he threw for the home run, he admitted, 'I would never throw that pitch in a game.' But he's working on it, trying to get it going for him, and I think it's going to be a good pitch for him. 

"He really pitched better than the result he got. He had a lot of work with his changeup, which is important. He was as sharp as we've seen him."

Coming into camp, Mackanin was concerned about Nola's health.

"I'm less concerned right now," the manager said. "It's always going to be in the back of my mind. But it's good to see 92, 93, 94 (mph) coming out of his hand, which is important. Once he regains that command, and he showed real good command of his fastball down in the zone today, he's going to be back to where he was -- with even maybe a little more velocity. We'll see. But the changeup is going to help him. I'm very encouraged."

The game
The Phillies lost, 4-2, to the Twins.

The Phils had 10 hits, two by Odubel Herrera, who homered.

Andrew Knapp, pushing to make the club, started behind the plate and had a double.

The Phillies were just 1 for 8 with runners in scoring position and left nine men on base.

The Phils' bullpen -- Sean Burnett, Edubray Ramos and Hector Neris -- accounted for 3 1/3 innings of scoreless ball.

Up next
The Phils play the Yankees in Tampa on Friday. Jeremy Hellickson will start against CC Sabathia.