Mackanin: Phillies plan on moving to six-man rotation
By Alec Shirkey
BOSTON -- Three times this weekend, the Phillies sent a rookie starter out to face the Red Sox. And though all three occasions ended in defeat, including Sunday's 6-2 loss that completed a sweep for Boston, interim manager Pete Mackanin recognizes that such struggles simply come with the territory of building toward 2016.
"These young guys, they're taking their lumps," Mackanin said. "But that's what this year's about, and that's what the first time through the big leagues, you've got to fine-tune it a little bit and get over the experience of being here for the first time."
On Sunday, right-hander Jerad Eickhoff took his turn learning just how difficult the Majors can be, allowing six runs on eight hits over four innings. He fell victim to David Ortiz's 497th home run in the first inning, a two-run blast to right field, and then surrendered four runs in a 44-pitch second.
After that, however, Eickhoff went on to work two scoreless innings, including a perfect third on four pitches.
"We were going to see if he would get away from his fastball and start being real fine with his pitches," Mackanin said. "Actually, I think he was trying to be too fine early in the game. When that happens, you end up making mistakes. And then after the damage was done, he went right back to his fastball and started making pitches. He reacted extremely well. So it was good to see."
The shaky performance came after Eickhoff recorded quality starts in his first three games. But the 25-year-old took the tough game in stride, adding that he was glad Mackanin let him continue pitching after the second.
"I'm as stubborn as they come," Eickhoff said. "And I want to come up here, and no matter how bad it's looking or how bad it is, I want to go out there for my team and try to get as deep as I can."
To give his staff of youngsters some needed rest, Mackanin revealed that the Phillies plan on moving to a six-man rotation starting Wednesday against the Braves. However, the club has not announced who will take the open spot.
"We've got a limit on pitches for [Aaron] Nola, and you got to be careful with Eickhoff and [Alec] Asher," Mackanin said. "For everybody, it's good this late in the season, especially the young guys who haven't pitched. Unless they're going to get extra days in between. Because they're not used to going this deep into a season. They're not used to playing in September. So the inning totals are going to be important to keep an eye on."
For Eickhoff and his fellow rookies, they at least have the benefit of relying on their shared experiences while continuing to break into the big leagues.
"Going through what I went through today, I would've bounced that off other pitchers and just see what they would've done differently, what I could have done instead of doing this, things like that," Eickhoff said. "So I think it's a good reference point, for sure."
Alec Shirkey is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.