As recently as January, it was unclear whether or not Jerad Eickhoff would ever toss a pitch in the major leagues again. The promising pitcher was experiencing severe nerve damage in his right hand due to carpal tunnel and could hardly grip a baseball without feeling a discomforting tingle in his fingers. Now, four months and a couple of successful procedures later, Eickhoff is putting up career-bests across the best for the surging Phillies.
In replacement of starting pitcher and good friend Nick Pivetta, who was demoted to Triple-A following a rocky start to this season, Eickhoff has been nothing short of outstanding. On the back of his dominant curveball and slider, Eickhoff has posted a 1.50 ERA through 30.0 innings pitched this season. Furthermore, the right-hander has yet to allow a single home run this season.
Labeling his impressive performance a pleasant surprise would be an understatement. Eickhoff bouncing back the way he has from such a severe injury was thought to be impossible a few months ago and now presents the Phillies with some tough decisions to make.
SP Nick Pivetta
Perhaps the player most affected by Eickhoff’s resurgence, Pivetta may have to endure a longer stay in the minors than he originally anticipated.
Although the Canadian native has performed admirably enough to warrant a return to the big leagues- posting a 3.50 ERA and a 13.5 K/9 across three starts with the IronPigs- the Phils haven’t shown any inclination of demoting Eickhoff anytime soon, rightfully so. So, unless a different Phillies starting pitcher (Velasquez?) completely falters in the senior circuit, Pivetta may have to improve his game with an extended stay in the minors.
Alternatively, Pivetta could make his return to the Phils as a reliever out the bullpen. I’d opt against such a move, however, as Pivetta still possesses plenty of promise as a starter and could be a huge part of the rotation down the stretch once he gets sorted.
SP Vince Velasquez
This season has been a mixed bag for Velasquez. Velasquez seemed to reinvent himself a bit in his first four starts, limiting runs while continuing to strike batters out at a high clip. He lacked run support in those initial four outings, however, collecting three no-decisions and one win despite his efforts. Unfortunately, things have begun to spiral a bit for the hard-throwing righty since then. Velasquez has allowed eight runs over his last two starts- failing to go deeper than four innings in either outing.
Still seemingly incapable of keeping his pitch count in check, it may be time to move Velasquez to the bullpen- a move I’ve been pounding the drum for since 2017. Given his insane velocity and inability to go deep in ball games, a transition to the bullpen as a power-arm reliever seems like a sensible solution.
For some odd reason, skipper Gabe Kapler has been reluctant to make the switch. Perhaps the emergence of Jerad Eickhoff will force his hand.
Albeit a small sample size, as he has only made five appearances in 2019, Eickhoff’s performance may affect the Phils trade deadline plans. If the Illinois native can continue to keep batters off balance with his extensive repertoire, that would give the Phillies four competent starters- alongside Aaron Nola, Jake Arrieta, and Zach Eflin. Such a turn of events could motivate Philly to be more aggressive in their pursuit of a lefty starter to round out their rotation as they load up for a deep postseason run.
Regardless of any subsequent moves, the Phillies have to be thrilled with the development of Eickhoff this season. Witnessing his comeback has been one of the many bright spots for the team in 2019 and hopefully, he can continue to please in Philly.