Eickhoff thinks big for 2017 and beyond

Righty hoping an improved changeup leads to more success

Eickhoff thinks big for 2017 and beyond

CLEARWATER, Fla. -- This spring, the Phillies hoisted banners of a few players around the half-field at Spectrum Field.

Jerad Eickhoff is on one of those banners. He sees it every day.

He got one because he is part of the Phillies' future. He posted a 3.65 ERA in 33 starts last season, his first full season in the big leagues. He is a lock to make the starting rotation and if Jeremy Hellickson had not accepted the Phillies' qualifying offer in the offseason, there is a very good chance he would have been their Opening Day starter on April 3 in Cincinnati.

"It's very cool, but I see it as a responsibility to uphold," Eickhoff said after pitching two innings Monday in a 7-2 loss to the Rays in a Grapefruit League game. "I'm going to continue working. I have a very high standard for myself and I think a lot of us in here do. We just want to try to be the best players that we can and come together as a group and win in any way, shape, or form."

If Eickhoff could snap his fingers and replicate his 2016 success for the next 10 years, he will have a fine career and make a boatload of money.

But can he take another step forward? How much better can he be?

"I think the sky is the limit," Eickhoff said. "I'm going to continue working, whether it's being Greg Maddux-esque with command or having a good breaking ball, or throwing a changeup like Maddux did. There's always something I'm working on and trying to develop and sharpen up. I think there are only ways to get better from here on out. I think what I did is good, but I like to put it behind me and continue to work and know that there's nothing more than looking ahead."

Eickhoff on his outing

In an effort to improve, Eickhoff is working on his changeup. He wants to throw it more frequently after throwing it just 5.2 percent of the time last year, according to FanGraphs.com. He also wants to improve his slider and curveball to the point where he doesn't rely on one or the other too much from start to start, which got him in trouble at times.

"Just being more crisp with execution and location," he said.

Eickhoff spoke after a lengthy post-start workout, more than an hour after he pitched. He credited his workout routine last year to keeping him strong through the end of the season. He had a 2.52 ERA in six September starts.

Somebody remarked that Roy Halladay had similar post-start workouts.

"Well, he was pretty good at what he did," Eickhoff said. "If he did the same thing, I'd be happy to follow through."

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