Eickhoff 'slowed it down' in steady start vs. Mets

Eickhoff 'slowed it down' in steady start vs. Mets

PHILADELPHIA -- Phillies manager Pete Mackanin announced the Phillies' rotation to open the second half last Sunday in Colorado.

He said Jeremy Hellickson would start the second-half opener Friday against the Mets at Citizens Bank Park because he is the most experienced pitcher in the group. He chose Jerad Eickhoff to pitch Saturday, instead of Aaron Nola, Vince Velasquez or Zach Eflin, because he might have been the Phillies' best pitcher in the first half.

Eickhoff showed his ability to grind in Saturday's 4-2 victory over the Mets. He allowed five hits, two runs, one walk and struck out three in six-plus innings, while also notching a pair of hits and scoring a run. The line score makes it look like Eickhoff had an easy night, but it was far from that. He allowed the leadoff hitter to reach base in five of seven innings.

"He's not as sharp as I've seen him," Mackanin said. "He really wasn't that sharp, and he pitched well enough to win. Too many baserunners for my liking, but he got us into the seventh inning."

"That was kind of frustrating," Eickhoff said. "I was starting in the stretch early on."

But Eickhoff bounced back from arguably the worst start of his career July 9 in Colorado, where he allowed a career-high eight runs in 5 1/3 innings.

"Deep breaths," Eickhoff said, asked how he worked out of his jams Saturday. "Just kind of focus on each pitch and not try to think too far ahead. Just focus on the now and not worrying about giving up two, three, four runs, instead of giving up just one. Just kind of slowed it down a little bit."

It is no secret that Hellickson could be traded before the Aug. 1 non-waiver Trade Deadline, and the Phillies are closely monitoring the workloads of Nola and Velasquez. Eickhoff could be the Phillies' lone starter to approach 200 innings before the end of the season as he establishes himself as the rotation's workhorse. He has a team-high 115 innings through 19 starts, a little more than six innings per start.

"An innings eater, that's what I've always wanted to be," he said.

He grinded through his start Saturday to keep him on pace of becoming just that.

Todd Zolecki has covered the Phillies since 2003, and for MLB.com since 2009. Read his Phillies blog The Zo Zone, follow him on Twitter and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.