The Phillies received some bad news on their rotation today, as Jim Salisbury of NBC Sports Philadelphia reports (via Twitter) that right-hander Jerad Eickhoff has been diagnosed with a strained lat muscle and will be sidelined for the next six to eight weeks. Eickhoff had been projected to occupy a rotation spot behind newly signed Jake Arrieta and top incumbent starter Aaron Nola. Now, he’ll open the season on the disabled list.
The 27-year-old Eickhoff was considered a secondary or tertiary piece when he was traded from the Rangers to the Phillies in the blockbuster that sent Cole Hamels and Jake Diekman to Texas. However, he quickly emerged as a viable big league starter and has since provided the Phils with 376 1/3 innings of 3.87 ERA ball, averaging 8.0 K/9 against 2.6 BB/9 with a 39.2 percent ground-ball rate along the way.
Last season was Eickhoff’s worst in the Majors, as he limped to a 4.71 ERA thanks largely to an uncharacteristic spike in his walk rate (3.7 BB/9). Injuries likely played a part in his substandard control, as he missed time in June with a back strain and would again go on the DL in late August with nerve irritation in his hand — an injury that ultimately ended his season. Certainly, it’s not hard to see how either of those injuries could significantly diminish his control; Eickhoff, for context, averaged just 2.0 walks per nine innings through his first 248 1/3 MLB frames.
The initial estimate for Eickhoff’s absence would leave him out of action until at least the end of April and possibly up through mid-May, depending of course on how he responds to treatment and how his rehab progresses. Salisbury adds in a followup tweet that he’s currently being examined back in Philadelphia, which could give a clearer picture of how his rehab will be laid out.
Eickhoff’s injury improves the chances for fellow rotation hopefuls such as Vince Velasquez, Nick Pivetta, Ben Lively, Jake Thompson, Zach Eflin, Mark Leiter and non-roster invitee Drew Hutchison in Philadelphia. Obviously, as that group of names suggests, the Phils aren’t short on replacement options with some degree of MLB experience. It remains to be seen, though, if the injury will embolden the front office to make a move from outside the organization.
At first glance, this wouldn’t seem to make such a move especially more likely. GM Matt Klentak has previously suggested that the signing of Arrieta likely concluded his team’s offseason spending, and while Eickhoff was one of the team’s more reliable sources of innings, the injury is relatively short-term nature in nature.