Jerad Eickhoff to start for Phillies in spring opener

CLEARWATER, Fla. — Jerad Eickhoff will start for the Phillies on Thursday afternoon, as they open their spring-training schedule with an exhibition against the University of Tampa at Spectrum Field.

Eickhoff will probably only pitch an inning, as manager Gabe Kapler said he expects to use “roughly” nine pitchers against Tampa. It will be the start of an important spring for Eickhoff, who battled injuries last season and failed to replicate the success and consistency he showed in 2016. Eickhoff finished last season with a 4.71 ERA and made nine fewer starts then did a year earlier.

“He looks great. He’s completely healthy,” Kapler said.

The Phillies will open their Grapefruit League schedule on Friday in neighboring Dunedin against the Blue Jays. They will play their first Grapefruit League home game on Saturday against Baltimore.

Outfield playing time

Kapler said he has no doubts he will be able to find enough playing time during the regular season for his four outfielders, despite having just three positions.

“I’m just not that concerned about it,” Kapler said. “They’re all going to get a ton of reps.”

Balancing their playing time might be one of Kapler’s most challenging tasks. It is likely that a regular lineup will include Rhys Hoskins in left field, Odubel Herrera in center, and Nick Williams or Aaron Altherr in right. Hoskins is limited to left and first base, while the other three can move around all three outfield positions. The positional flexibility could help Kapler get creative, as he moves players in and out of his lineup.

“I envision plenty of at-bats to keep everyone happy and performing well. We know there’s going to be a few reps at first base, we know all of the outfield reps are going to come, we know there’s going to be pinch-hit at-bats, we know there’s going to be double switches,” Kapler said. “If you factor all of these things in, there’s a lot of at-bats for essentially four positions. And we haven’t even explored other ways creatively to get them into the lineup.”

Extra bases

Williams nearly hit Kapler’s car with a batting-practice homer for the second consecutive day. “We’re going to make it a bull’s-eye,” Kapler said. … All major-league teams will wear Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School hats on Friday in support of the Parkland, Fla., school after last week’s shooting. The hats will then be signed and auctioned off to raise money for Broward Education Foundation, which benefits the official Stoneman Douglas Victims’ Fund …Thursday’s game will be streamed online at tampaspartans.tv.