Phillies

Jerad Eickhoff stays grounded after out-pitching Chris Sale

Jerad Eickhoff stays grounded after out-pitching Chris Sale

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The Phillies don’t have to worry about Jerad Eickhoff ever getting full of himself.
 
This is one grounded young man.
 
Eickhoff out-pitched American League Cy Young candidate Chris Sale in helping the Phillies beat the Chicago White Sox, 8-3, at Citizens Bank Park on Wednesday night (see Instant Replay). The 26-year-old right-hander has been remarkably consistent in his first full season in the majors. He has not missed a start, is pushing 200 innings and is 11-14 with a 3.75 ERA after starting out the season 2-8. His record would be a lot better if his mates had scored runs for him all season like they did Wednesday night.
 
With veteran Jeremy Hellickson likely moving on via free agency, Eickhoff could be in line to be the Phillies’ opening day starter next April.
 
Eickhoff was asked about that possibility after holding the White Sox to three runs over seven innings in his latest win.
 
His answer showed just how grounded he is.
 
“As long as I can be one of the guys on the team, one through five, just try to get in the rotation, whatever it is I’m happy with,” he said.
 
Eickhoff shouldn't worry.

He will be one of the guys next year.
 
Manager Pete Mackanin called him “a mainstay.” Those are words that get attached to durable pitchers who don’t miss a start and keep their teams in games, as Eickhoff has done so often. He entered Wednesday night’s game with the third-lowest run support in the majors — 3.59 runs per nine innings. He’d be pushing 15 wins with better run support. The Phils are 12-1 when scoring three runs or more in an Eickhoff start.
 
“That’s a tremendous compliment,” Eickhoff said in response to Mackanin’s calling him a mainstay. “I try to be as consistent as I can. You want to be counted on. To go out there and kind of know what you’re going to get, that’s what I’ve always strived to do.”
 
Eickhoff leads the team with 187⅓ innings. With two starts left, he has a chance to reach 200 innings.
 
“I think that would be a pretty cool benchmark to get to with this being my first full year,” he said. “But I try to think as day-by-day as I can and control what I can control pitch to pitch.”
 
Run support was not a problem for Eickhoff in this game. The Phillies had 10 hits with Tommy Joseph, Cesar Hernandez, Maikel Franco and Cameron Rupp all getting two each. Sale entered the game with a 3.03 ERA, second best in the AL, but the Phils torched him for six runs in four innings.
 
The top two men in the lineup, Hernandez and Roman Quinn, combined to reach base seven times and score three runs.
 
Joseph doubled in a run in the first inning against Sale and Rupp followed with a two-run double.
 
Joseph clubbed his 21st homer in 298 at-bats, a two-run shot in the third. The rookie first baseman is 12 for 25 with three homers and eight RBIs in his last seven games. He is hitting .262 with a .522 slugging percentage and a .311 on-base percentage.
 
Joseph was happy to get Eickhoff some run support.
 
“He’s pitched much better than his record,” Joseph said. “He seems to go up against the ace of every staff as well. To get him run support meant a lot for us. And I’m sure it meant something for him as well.”

Eickhoff has been prone to home runs. He has given up seven in his last two starts, but six have been solo shots and solo shots won’t kill you, as the saying goes.

The Phillies traveled to New York after the game. They open a four-game series against the Mets on Thursday night and will have a chance to impact that club’s postseason hopes. The Mets were swept by the Braves the last three nights and the Phillies would like to do the same.

“I think the guys are up to it,” Mackanin said. “The Mets are playing for something. It would be nice to be a spoiler.”

Rhys Hoskins on 'surreal' rookie year, position switch, expectations

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Rhys Hoskins on 'surreal' rookie year, position switch, expectations

For a couple of weeks in August, Rhys Hoskins might have been Philadelphia's most popular athlete. Fans marveled at the nightly power display that the young slugger put on in the middle of the Phillies' batting order. Carson Wentz and the Eagles had not yet begun their magnificent season. Hoskins was the man in town.

It hit him one night after a game. He stopped in Center City for some late-night eats. A man and his young son approached. They offered their congratulations and asked for an autograph.

"That's when I was like, 'OK, this might be something that's about to be part of my life,' " Hoskins said. "But it was cool because I used to be that kid."

Hoskins was back in the area Monday night for the 114th Philadelphia Sports Writers Association Dinner. He was honored with a special achievement award for a torrid major league debut in which he clubbed 18 homers and drove in 48 runs in just 50 games last season.

Hoskins was raised in Sacramento, California but moved to San Diego this offseason. His 18 homers in 2017 were the most ever hit by a player who did not make his season debut until after Aug. 1. Hall of Famer Ted Williams, who hit 13 homers after returning from the Korean War in 1953, was the previous record holder.

Williams was a San Diego native.

"Surreal," Hoskins said of that 50-game stretch last season and the buzz that has followed him into the offseason. "Indescribable."

He is now a recognizable face, a signature talent, in a sports-crazy town.

And he's ready for it.

"Enjoy it," he said. "Take it by storm and enjoy it. It's supposed to be fun and that's probably the best approach to take. I think my thought is what happened may never happen again. Tomorrow something might happen. Tomorrow I might never be able to step on a baseball field again. So I think you have to take it by storm and enjoy it.

"If you had asked me a year ago if I would be walking down the streets of Philadelphia and would people recognize me I'd probably laugh at you. But that’s where we are now.

"It's just a testament to how passionate the people of Philadelphia are and how much they love their sports."

Hoskins will report to Clearwater for spring training at the end of this month. He wants to get a head start so he can ramp up his workouts in left field. A first baseman by trade, he began playing the position occasionally last season. He will move there full-time in 2018 as newly signed Carlos Santana takes over at first base.

Hoskins got a 30-game taste of left field last year. He is OK with the move.

"Having Carlos is exciting for the city and exciting for the team," Hoskins said. "We add a guy who has proven himself in this league for five or six years at a very high level so to kind of insert that into the lineup and into the clubhouse, especially with such a young team — I think we're going to feel that exponentially throughout the year.

"Left field is a challenge. It's a challenge that I'm definitely excited about. I started to feel more comfortable out there toward the end of the year.

"I think I can be just fine out there. I'm not necessarily going to be a Gold Glover. I just don’t have the speed that some guys out there do, especially in today's game. But I think I'll be just fine and contribute to the team defensively as much as I can and make the plays that I'm supposed to."

Hoskins will turn 25 on March 17. He projects to bat cleanup in new manager Gabe Kapler's lineup.

"He's energized, intense and thorough," Hoskins said of the new skipper. "He can captivate a room. I'm curious to see how that dynamic works in the clubhouse. I think he's going to be a pretty exciting guy to work with."

Phillies sign 3 to clear up arbitration cases

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Phillies sign 3 to clear up arbitration cases

Updated: 3:15 p.m.

The Phillies wrapped up all of their potential salary arbitration cases when they agreed to 2018 contracts with infielders Cesar Hernandez and Maikel Franco and relief pitcher Luis Garcia on Friday.

Earlier in the week, the team agreed on a contract with catcher Cameron Rupp.

Those were the club's only arbitration-eligible players.

Hernandez, a second-time arbitration-eligible player, will make $5.1 million in 2018, up from $2.55 million last season. 

Franco and Garcia were both eligible for salary arbitration for the first time.

Franco will make $2.95 million, up from $560,000 last season. The 25-year-old third baseman had a disappointing season in 2017, hitting just .230 with a .281 on-base percentage. He did hit a team-high 24 home runs.

Franco has great potential and club management will be looking for him to put it together in 2018. But even a strong season from Franco probably won't sway the club away from making a run at Manny Machado, who is scheduled to hit the free-agent market next winter.

Garcia, who turns 31 later this month, will make $1.2 million in 2018, up from $550,000 last year.

Back in October, new manager Gabe Kapler mentioned Garcia as a player who had caught his attention. Consistency had long eluded the hard-throwing right-hander but he found it in 2017 and had his best season. He added a splitter to his power fastball-slider mix and posted a 2.65 ERA in 66 games. He gave up just four earned runs in 22⅓ innings over his final 23 games, and three of those runs came in one outing.

Hernandez, the team's 27-year-old second baseman, has been one of the Phils' top players the last two seasons. He hit .294 and posted a .372 on-base percentage over that span.

The Phils are deep at second base and top prospect Scott Kingery is expected to be ready to arrive in the majors during the first half of the 2018 season. With Kingery coming, there is a chance the Phils could cash in on Hernandez's value and trade him for pitching sometime between now and Kingery's expected arrival.

Hernandez will not be eligible for free agency until after the 2020 season.

Hernandez's former double-play mate, Freddy Galvis, was traded to San Diego in December. Rookie J.P. Crawford will move in at shortstop in 2018. Galvis settled his potential arbitration case with the Padres on Friday when he agreed to a one-year deal worth $6.825 million.

Rupp, who was eligible for arbitration for the first time, will make $2.05 million in 2018. He is one of three catchers on the 40-man roster along with Jorge Alfaro and Andrew Knapp. Alfaro is out of minor-league options and will be given the chance to be the team's No. 1 catcher in April.