While the Phillies have been very active in their pursuit of bats over the course of this season, they have stayed rather quiet from a pitching standpoint. The Phillies have mostly relied on their minor league depth to help aid their bullpen situation.
Some of those moves have worked, others haven’t. But the Phillies still had one big internal move to make. Activate Jerad Eickhoff.
Now 28 years of age, Eickhoff was projected to be a member of the Phillies starting rotation this year. But a lat strain in spring training put him on the shelf for two months. The right-hander then suffered a set-back in his rehab. The question went from when to if we would see Eickhoff this season?
Thankfully, Eickhoff stayed healthy as he progressed through stops at both High-A Clearwater and Double-A Reading. His last four tun-eups with Triple-A Lehigh Valley were particularly encouraging. Eickhoff allowed just 17 hits across 17.2 innings over which he allowed just five earned runs.
On September 3, the Phillies finally activated him. In doing so the club said goodbye to another starting pitcher, Ben Lively, who was subsequently picked up by the Kansas City Royals.
Though all 65 of his career appearances with the Phillies have come as a starter, it appears that Gabe Kapler‘s initial plan is to use him out of the bullpen. Eickhoff has an 18-25 record over parts of three prior seasons with the big club. He has a career 3.87 ERA and 1.267 WHIP and a 3.09 K/BB ratio as well.
His return could prove significant for the Phillies, especially with the recent struggles of Nick Pivetta and Zach Eflin. The inability of those two starters to go deep into games of late has taken a toll on the bullpen.
If he so chooses, the Phillies skipper can now go to a man who is arguably the third best starting pitcher on the roster in middle relief, using Eickhoff to bridge the gap to the late inning relievers.
It may be mostly a minor move, but with Eickhoff’s ability to go three or more innings, the Phillies can push relievers such as Victor Arano and Luis Garcia back to the seventh or eighth. It also helps to limit the total number of relievers Gabe Kapler will have to use on many nights.
Though he was activated earlier this week, Kapler hasn’t yet had a situation in which he felt ready to use Eickhoff. That is almost surely going to end this weekend at Citi Field.
Depending on what the club might due in the off-season, Eickhoff will probably get a shot at returning to the Phillies rotation in 2019. But it may be his work out of the bullpen that helps prolong the club’s contending status in this 2018 season.
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