Jerad Eickhoff

Another setback for Jerad Eickhoff; a look at Phillies' weekend pitching plans

Another setback for Jerad Eickhoff; a look at Phillies' weekend pitching plans

PITTSBURGH — Phillies pitcher Jerad Eickhoff has experienced another setback in his recovery from a hand condition that has him on the disabled list.

Eickhoff has experienced on-again, off-again tingling in the fingers on his right hand when he throws. He experienced the sensation again while throwing to hitters in Clearwater and will return to Philadelphia to be checked by doctors, according to manager Gabe Kapler.

“I don’t know how concerning it is,” Kapler said Friday. “He’s optimistic. I’m optimistic. The shoulder is sound. The elbow is sound. There’s nothing that has come across that has been, 'Oh, no.' He’s just feeling tingling in his fingers.”

The tingling, which first presented itself late last season, has been limited to two fingers. The difference now is Eickhoff felt it while throwing his fastball. He had previously felt it throwing his curveball only.

Eickhoff, a 28-year-old right-hander, has not pitched all season. He began the season on the disabled list with a lat strain. The issue with his fingers reappeared during his rehab from that.

Eickhoff has been seen by a number of specialists in recent weeks. Thoracic outlet syndrome, a circulation issue that has plagued some pitchers, was ruled out.

The rotation
The Phillies were set to open a three-game series against the Pirates on Friday night with Nick Pivetta on the mound. Jake Arrieta will pitch Saturday afternoon.

The Phillies have not yet named a starter for Sunday afternoon’s game. The Phils have not named starters for Monday’s doubleheader, either.

“We have a lot of balls in the air,” Kapler said. “We want to see how our bullpen goes today.”

It’s possible that the Phils could use both Aaron Nola and Zach Eflin on Monday and fill Sunday’s game with the bullpen or bring someone up from Triple A.

Vince Velasquez, on the DL with a right arm contusion, is feeling good and will throw a bullpen session Saturday. If all goes well, he could pitch Wednesday in New York.

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So ... what do the Phillies do when Jerad Eickhoff's ready to go?

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So ... what do the Phillies do when Jerad Eickhoff's ready to go?

WASHINGTON — Saturday was an important step in the right direction for Jerad Eickhoff.

Eickhoff threw another bullpen session, this time using his curveball. He came away with no issues, which was big because his curveball had previously been causing numbness in his fingertips. Eickhoff had thrown all fastballs in his previous bullpen session Tuesday.

The 27-year-old right-hander has not pitched for the Phillies this season. He was placed on the DL with a lat strain in spring training, and when he was on the way back he again experienced that numbness in the fingers. He received an anti-inflammatory injection in his wrist and appears to be OK since.

It doesn't look like Eickhoff is ready yet to pitch live BP or begin a rehab assignment. Once he does begin a rehab assignment, the Phillies will have 30 days to decide what to do with him. If they deem him unready after the 30 days, they could activate him from the DL and option him to Triple A Lehigh Valley. Eickhoff does have an option remaining.

The reason that's even a possibility for a man who made 57 starts for the Phillies the last two seasons is the success of the current five-man rotation. 

Zach Eflin isn't going anywhere. Eflin is 5-2 with a 3.44 ERA in nine starts and has shown genuine progress with his four-seam fastball and rising strikeout rate. After punching out just 4.7 batters per nine innings in 2016 and 2017, Eflin has struck out 9.2 per nine this season.

The Phillies obviously wouldn't be pushing 2018 revelation Nick Pivetta out of the rotation either. And Vince Velasquez, as inconsistent as he can be, has allowed three runs or less in 10 of 15 starts. From a pure stuff standpoint, there's not much of a comparison between Velasquez and Eickhoff.

These situations have a way of working themselves out. If this one doesn't and the entire rotation remains healthy, the Phils' two most realistic options would be to try to get Eickhoff into a groove starting games at Triple A, or use him as a long reliever on the major-league roster.

The Phillies carried Drew Hutchison as the long man for the first two months of the season before designating him for assignment in early June. Since then, they've run through Mark Leiter Jr. and Jake Thompson but neither has stuck in the big leagues. 

It's unclear how Eickhoff would perform in that role coming out of the bullpen with the Phillies trailing or leading by a lot. Unlike 90 percent of bullpen arms these days, Eickhoff is not a hard thrower. His fastball sits around 91 mph, and when he's going well it's because he's spotting it on the corners and freezing hitters with his 12-6 curveball.

There's still a ways to go for Eickhoff, but if there's no other rotation injury by the time he's ready to go, he'll need to earn his old job back.

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Bad news for Phillies' J.P. Crawford; Jerad Eickhoff set for big test

Bad news for Phillies' J.P. Crawford; Jerad Eickhoff set for big test

J.P. Crawford stood in front of his locker with a soft cast on his left hand and a sad look on his face.

A few lockers away, Jerad Eickhoff struck a more optimistic tone.

As Eickhoff gets ready to ramp up his recovery from a condition that has caused numbness in the fingers on his right hand, Crawford was officially placed on the disabled list Wednesday morning with a broken bone in his left hand. He suffered the break when he was hit by a pitch in Tuesday night’s game. The Phillies recalled corner infielder Mitch Walding from Triple A to take Crawford’s roster spot.

Manager Gabe Kapler said Crawford would be down four to six weeks.

“Plain and simple, it sucks,” Crawford said.

The fracture is on the top of Crawford's hand, on the bone that extends from the middle knuckle. He said it would not require surgery.

Crawford, 23, is hitting just .194 with a .312 on-base percentage this season. He missed five weeks with a forearm strain earlier this season and returned to the lineup in early June. He had been getting reps at third base and was due for more. With Crawford out, and missing more development time, Maikel Franco, who had lost time at third, will get regular playing time again.

Eickhoff, who was projected to be a mainstay in the Phillies’ rotation, has not pitched all season, first because of a lat strain and lately because of numbness in the fingers on his pitching hand. A series of tests ruled out a serious problem. He was treated with an anti-inflammatory injection in his wrist and passed a test when he threw a problem-free, 20-pitch bullpen session on Tuesday.

“It was good, 20 pitches, all fastballs,” Eickhoff said. “It felt good. No numbness. The shot seems to be working.”

Eickhoff felt the numbness mostly when he torqued his curveball. He did not throw that pitch in Tuesday's bullpen session. He said he would mix in that pitch during his next bullpen session, Saturday in Washington.

“That’s a big test,” he said. “I am cautiously optimistic that I won’t feel anything.”

Eickhoff believes he will need a couple of more bullpens before he moves to competitive work in minor-league rehab games. He is confident he will pitch for the Phillies again this season.

“One step at a time,” he said. “We checked one box yesterday. We’ll check another one Saturday.”

In other health matters, Nick Williams, who suffered a broken nose Monday night, passed concussion protocol and was in the lineup for Wednesday afternoon’s game.

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