Phillies assign Jerad Eickhoff to Lehigh Valley, Velasquez on a short leash

PHILADELPHIA, PA - SEPTEMBER 28: Pitcher Jerad Eickhoff #48 of the Philadelphia Phillies in action against the Atlanta Braves during a game at Citizens Bank Park on September 28, 2018 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Rich Schultz/Getty Images)
PHILADELPHIA, PA - SEPTEMBER 28: Pitcher Jerad Eickhoff #48 of the Philadelphia Phillies in action against the Atlanta Braves during a game at Citizens Bank Park on September 28, 2018 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Rich Schultz/Getty Images) /
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The Phillies starting rotation appears to be set going into the 2019 season.

Phillies starting pitcher Jerad Eickhoff has been sent down to Triple-A Lehigh Valley to begin the 2019 season.

Eickhoff missed all but five-and-a-third innings worth of big league ball in 2018 after dealing with carpal tunnel syndrome. The numbness in his fingers has derailed him for over a year, but after offseason surgery, Eickhoff appears to be headed on the right track.

With Eickhoff not making the 25-man roster, it appears the starting rotation is set for the first handful of regular games, but that doesn’t mean Eickhoff won’t be heard from soon.

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Aaron Nola is scheduled to pitch opening day and with several off-days early in the season, Nola could get a couple of extra starts in on regular rest if the Phillies skip a starter. Nick Pivetta is scheduled to start game two of the regular season, followed by Jake Arrieta and Zach Eflin on regular rest.

That could mean Vince Velasquez starts the year in the bullpen and Philadelphia turns to a four-man rotation with everyone getting regular rest.

Velasquez has struggled early in the spring and has only gotten six innings of work in with a 12.79 ERA. The Phillies could keep him fresh with relief appearances and bullpens as they start the season off with Nola getting extra games and setting the tone for the season.

If Velasquez struggles out of the gate again, there could be a quick flip with him and Eickhoff. Velasquez has two minor league options remaining, which could allow him to hone in on his command and find the pitcher who had a 2.30 ERA in May and a ridiculously impressive 0.95 ERA in July.

Eickhoff proved to the Phillies early in his career that (when healthy) he’s a serviceable starting pitcher who can manipulate hitters with his curveball.

As a rookie Eickhoff caught new teammate Bryce Harper with three strikeouts thanks to that 12-6 curve.

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It’s easy to forget how good Eickhoff has been, and if Velasquez continues to struggle and Eickhoff remains healthy we could see that big curveball return to Citizens Bank Park soon.