PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. - Jerad Eickhoff pitched Sunday as if he was ready for real baseball to start. He worked at a quick pace. He flung curveballs that generated a handful of bad swings. He toyed with a change-up, a pitch that could be crucial to his continued big-league success.
It is a spring cliché for a pitcher to prioritize his change-up. Most spend the spring fooling with one. Eickhoff believes he has found something.
"I've always been trying to take something off of it, get some movement with it," he said. "I don't necessarily know about the movement today, but the speed difference was definitely different and I got some swings and misses. That tells you a lot."
He struck out nine and walked none in six innings of an 8-0 Phillies loss to Tampa Bay. His strikeout victims were all major-leaguers, with Colby Rasmus and Brad Miller accounting for six of the punch-outs.
The curveball is his best pitch. It was again on Sunday, despite a hanging one that landed as a solo homer for Corey Dickerson. But Phillies manager Pete Mackanin was delighted that Eickhoff honed his change-up.
"He changed speeds really well," Mackanin said. "That's what he's working on. I think he sees the merit in that. So that will be a good pitch for his repertoire."
Tommy Joseph had not played since Tuesday because of a bruised left hand. He did not start Sunday, but his swing in the seventh prevented the Phillies from being no-hit. He cracked a double to center.
"It's nice to come back in and feel comfortable right away," Joseph said.
The Phillies managed only two hits. Tyler Goeddel singled in the ninth for the only other one. "We're not this bad," Mackanin said. "We're going to improve offensively." . . . Pitching coach Bob McClure walked to the mound in the eighth inning and raised both of his arms to signal for a new reliever. That was switch-pitcher Pat Venditte, of course. . . . The Phillies are off Monday as they begin their penultimate week in Florida.