Jerad Eickhoff and the Philadelphia Phillies defeated Tampa, 9-0
Jerad Eickhoff circled the pitcher's mound at Spectrum Field on Thursday afternoon and took a deep breath before toeing the rubber to throw his first pitch. The fact he was facing college kids from the University of Tampa was irrelevant.

“You still get butterflies,” Eickhoff said after pitching the first two innings of a 9-0 exhibition win. “Today was a big day. The sky’s the limit here. It was good to get it off my chest and just move forward.”

Eickhoff collected a strikeout in a 1-2-3 first inning and faced seven total batters, throwing first-pitch strikes to each. He threw 14 pitches with the majority being fastballs.

“To get on the mound again and feel those butterflies again and being able to compete is what you miss the most,” Eickhoff said.

Eickhoff is looking to regain the form he showed in 2016 when he won 11 games, finishing with a 3.69 ERA and 1.16 WHIP over 33 starts. Last year he sputtered, starting in nine fewer games while pitching to a 4.71 ERA. He also battled back and nerve issues throughout the year, resulting in a dip in his velocity.

It's an important spring, particularly if he wants to show he's a viable option to slot behind Aaron Nola in the No. 2 spot in the Phillies starting rotation.

“I say it every year and people say it as a joke, but I don’t take it as a joke. I try to fight away and compete every year, every spring training,” Eickhoff said. “I’m trying to win a job. I just want to help these guys and compete for these guys. Every year, I have something to prove.”

Including Eickhoff, the Phillies used nine pitchers on the afternoon. Jose Taveras, Tom Eshelman, Franklyn Kilome, Enyel De Los Santos, Seranthony Dominguez, Cole Irvin, Ranger Suarez, and Brandon Leibrandt each tossed an inning.

Zachary Green and Andrew Pullin hit back-to-back homers in the ninth inning for the Phillies.

Pullin added a two-run single in the seventh.

Tommy Joseph put the Phillies on the board in the opening frame, lacing a double down the leftfield line to score Andrew Knapp who reached base on a leadoff walk.

Danny Ortiz drove in a pair of runs with a single and made a diving catch ending the third inning.

Aside from Eickhoff on the mound, Dominquez was impressive with a fastball that hovered in the mid-90s and a perfect inning with three strikeouts.

The Phillies visit Dunedin on Friday afternoon to open the Grapefriut League schedule.
Follow Patrick on Twitter: @PGordonPBR

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