Jerad Eickhoff

David Robertson and Pat Neshek impress, Jerad Eickhoff debuts, Phillies make roster moves

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NBC Sports Philadelphia

David Robertson and Pat Neshek impress, Jerad Eickhoff debuts, Phillies make roster moves

CLEARWATER, Fla. — Monday afternoon was the first time so far in spring training that all five of the Phillies' prized offseason acquisitions played in the same game. The top of the order was Andrew McCutchen, Jean Segura, Bryce Harper and J.T. Realmuto, and David Robertson made his spring debut with a 1-2-3 eighth inning. 

McCutchen and Segura hit back-to-back homers in the fourth inning. Harper walked and struck out in his two plate appearances (see story).

Robertson followed Pat Neshek, who struck out the side in his inning of work. Combined, they allowed no baserunners and punched out five.

Robertson will be this team's setup man, and at times he'll close. When Seranthony Dominguez pitches the ninth, Neshek and Robertson will serve as the bridge in some form.

Neither veteran reliever has pitched much in spring games so far. They both know the drill, know their arms, know their bodies and how many innings of actual game action are required to begin a season.

Neshek, for example, hasn't made more than four appearances in spring training since 2016. His health and availability for the season are much more important than his work in Grapefruit League games, and both he and Robertson are able to accomplish what they need to accomplish in side sessions.

Eickhoff goes two innings

Jerad Eickhoff's spring debut didn't go as well. His outing began in the fifth inning with a bloop double and a two-run homer. He allowed another homer in the sixth.

It was good for Eickhoff just to get back out there after dealing with a wrist injury early in camp. Injuries limited him to just 5⅓ innings in the majors last season.

It will be tough, perhaps impossible, for Eickhoff to win a spot in the Phillies' starting rotation early on. He has a minor-league option left and will likely begin the year in the Triple A rotation. If he pitches well, he could be the first man up if the Phils suffer a starting pitcher injury.

Remember, Eickhoff was very impressive in 2015 and 2016, his first two big-league seasons. He had a 3.44 ERA in 248 1/3 innings with just 2.0 walks per nine innings. His big curveball missed bats and froze hitters, and he looked like a 200-inning workhorse in the making.

Roster moves

After Monday's game, the Phillies made a series of roster moves with their young pitchers.

Lefties Austin Davis and Ranger Suarez and righties Enyel De Los Santos and Edgar Garcia were optioned to Triple A. Garcia is an exciting 22-year-old reliever who could help the big-league club this season.

Lefties Cole Irvin and Tyler Gilbert were reassigned to minor-league camp.

In big-league camp, 48 players remain.

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Projecting Phillies' opening day pitching staff

Projecting Phillies' opening day pitching staff

A lot could happen between now and opening day — injuries, an unexpected move by the Phillies, an epic hot streak that helps a player make the team — but we can begin identifying who will probably be on the Phils’ 25-man roster come March 28. 

Today, we’ll focus on the pitching staff. Sunday morning, we’ll look at the position players. 

First things first: The Phillies are off three times within the first eight days of the season. Baseball does this every year to build in makeup dates in case of early-season postponements. 

This means that if the Phils use Aaron Nola on regular rest, Nola could start two of the Phillies’ first four games of the season and three of their first eight. 

The Phillies, barring postponements, really don’t even need to use a fifth starter until mid-April. It will be interesting to see whether they use the schedule to carry an extra reliever at the expense of a fifth starter during the first two weeks of the season. That could mean, for example, utilizing Vince Velasquez out of the bullpen early on. There would be positives and negatives to that — the Phils would get a look at Velasquez as a reliever, but it would also mess with his routine. The latter consideration probably outweighs the former. 

Let’s project this thing:

Pitchers (13)

RHP Aaron Nola
RHP Jake Arrieta
RHP Nick Pivetta
RHP Zach Eflin
RHP Vince Velasquez

You’ll notice that Jerad Eickhoff was omitted from this projected group. Eickhoff is working his way back from a stamina perspective. He faced Bryce Harper earlier this week in a simulated game. Harper struck out against him, walked and took him deep once. 

Even if Eickhoff finds himself in position to start a game in spring training, it’s unlikely he will have worked his pitch count up to the range that he could contribute to the Phils’ rotation in early April. Eickhoff has a minor-league option left and could start the season at Triple-A Lehigh Valley, where he’d be able to start every fifth and develop arm strength. 

Pivetta, Eflin and Velasquez all have an option left as well, for what it’s worth. 

RHP Seranthony Dominguez
RHP David Robertson
RHP Pat Neshek
RHP Hector Neris
LHP Jose Alvarez
LHP Adam Morgan or James Pazos
RHP Victor Arano
RHP Juan Nicasio

Know what the 2019 Phillies should do less frequently? Use Dominguez for more than three outs. The Phils did not have Robertson last year, and Hector Neris didn’t hit his stride until late in the season. Thus, they were forced to use Dominguez more than they probably should have. Of his 53 appearances, 16 lasted more than an inning. His effectiveness declined as the season wore on. 

Alvarez and Morgan are out of options. Pazos has one left. You’d think this gives Alvarez and Morgan the advantage of making the opening day roster as the Phillies would risk losing them if not. 

Nicasio is making $9 million this season so he will probably at least get an early-season look from the Phillies to see if he can recapture his effectiveness from 2017, when he had a 2.61 ERA in a National League-leading 76 appearances. 

If this is the opening day bullpen, one of the notable odd men out would be Edubray Ramos, who had a 2.32 ERA in 52 appearances with the Phils in 2018. Ramos has options left. 

This list also excludes Tommy Hunter, who was shut down for at least two weeks with an elbow strain in the final days of February. His opening day status is up in the air. 

Position players on Sunday.

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The Bryce Harper simulated game home run heard 'round the world

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NBCSP

The Bryce Harper simulated game home run heard 'round the world

Bryce Harper's first home run as a Phillie!

Kind of.

Harper homered off Jerad Eickhoff in his third plate appearance of a simulated game Wednesday afternoon, following a walk and a swinging strikeout.

The homer came on an Eickhoff curveball, his best pitch, and left the stadium.

"It felt good, just getting out there and seeing pitches, seeing spin," Harper said. "Glad Eickhoff was out there. If he's healthy, we're going to be pretty damn good, he's going to be able to help our staff a lot."

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