The Philadelphia Phillies landed five prospects at the 2015 MLB trade deadline in a huge deal with the Texas Rangers.
In that trade, the Phils sent ace homegrown lefty Cole Hamels to the Lone Star State in exchange for catcher Jorge Alfaro, outfielder Nick Williams, and pitchers Jake Thompson, Alec Asher, and Jerad Eickhoff.
Eickhoff is not listed last there by happenstance. The fact is that at the time of the deal, Eickhoff was the most anonymous of the pieces coming back to the Phillies, and the one least expected to impact the team, especially in the short-term.
As anyone who follows the team knows, that narrative was quickly changed by Eickhoff’s performances as soon as he arrived. Assigned to AAA Lehigh Valley after the deal, Eickhoff went 2-1 in 3 starts, allowing 17 hits in 21.2 innings, with a 19/3 K:BB ratio.
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Not only those statistics, but his maturity and poise impressed the club enough to call Eickhoff up to the big leagues for his first start on August 21st at Marlins Park against the host Miami Marlins. There were no promises made to the 25-year old. He would have to keep impressing if he wanted to stay with the Phillies.
Impress he did. Eickhoff shut out Miami on five hits over six innings, striking out five and walking just one batter, earning the Win in his big league debut in a 7-1 Phillies victory.
“It’s hard to describe. It’s just the whole culmination of a season, experiences, learning. It just all comes together into a great feeling.” ~ Eickhoff after his season finale
Over his next three starts, Eickhoff produced a mixed bag of results. He pitched back-to-back in his next two outings against the red-hot New York Mets, who were taking charge in an NL East race that they would win going away.
In the two starts against New York, Eickhoff allowed six earned runs and 10 hits over 13 innings, with a 10/3 K:BB ratio. He lost both outings, getting hit too frequently in the first, and allowing a pair of long balls in the second.
Given almost a week off, Eickhoff’s next start was his worst. At Fenway Park, the righthander allowed six earned on eight hits in just four innings against the Red Sox. But if there was any thought that he was tiring, the rest of the season would dispel those thoughts.
In his final four starts during the month of September, Eickhoff was brilliant. He allowed just 17 hits over 28 innings, lasting a full seven innings in each of the outings. He had a 33/7 K:BB ratio in the four starts, and struck out 10 opposition hitters in each of his last two starts against the division’s top two team’s, the Washington Nationals and the Mets.
In his final start against New York, Eickhoff battled Mets’ outfielder Juan Lagares. With his pitch count rising towards the 110 mark, he overcame a visit to the mound by manager Pete Mackanin to stay in the game.
Eickhoff then won the battle, finally striking out the center fielder swinging in what was clearly an emotional moment for the youngster. He was quoted following the game by CSNPhilly.com insider Jim Salisbury:
“As a competitor I’m not wanting to come out there and for Pete to stick with me, that meant a lot to me. I was really looking to get that guy out for myself and for the team to build some trust. It was fun, but it was also nerve-racking at the same time. He kept fouling good pitches off. He had me grinding, too. It’s hard to describe. It’s just the whole culmination of a season, experiences, learning. It just all comes together into a great feeling. It’s hard to describe, just everything was kind of bottled up into one pitch.”
His final numbers showed a 3-3 record with a 2.65 ERA and a 1.039 WHIP mark. He allowed 40 hits in 51 innings, with a 49/13 K:BB ratio. Along with 22-year old fellow rookie Aaron Nola, Eickhoff gave the Phillies reliable Major League-caliber starting pitching over the season’s final three weeks.
Now those two will enter Spring Training down in Clearwater next month as the only returnees with places in the 2016 starting rotation already assured. Health allowing, they will join newcomers Jeremy Hellickson and Charlie Morton in that rotation, with a group of youngsters fighting for the 5th starter job.