Jerad Eickhoff has been almost as good as Cole Hamels
CLEARWATER, Fla. (AP) Jerad Eickhoff came to the Philadelphia Phillies as an extra and turned in a rotation centerpiece.
The Phillies acquired five prospects when they traded former ace Cole Hamels to the Texas Rangers in July 2015 - catcher Jorge Alfaro, outfielder Nick Williams and pitchers Jake Thompson, Alec Asher and Eickhoff.
Alfaro, Williams and Thompson instantly became the Nos. 2-4 ranked prospects in Philadelphia's farm system and are still highly rated.
Eickhoff was an afterthought, but he's the only one expected to start the season in the majors for the second straight year.
While Hamels has helped Texas reach the postseason twice - the 2008 World Series MVP is 0-2 in three playoff starts for the Rangers - Eickhoff has posted some comparable numbers.
Eickhoff is 14-17 with a 3.44 ERA, 1.14 WHIP and 216 strikeouts in 248 1/3 innings. Hamels is 22-6 with a 3.42 ERA, 1.27 WHIP and 278 Ks in 284 1/3 innings.
Ignore the won-loss records because Eickhoff has pitched for an offense-challenged, rebuilding team.
''I've always known my abilities and what I can do and I've tried to do things the right way and do the little things right and I think Cole might be the same way and those traits correlate,'' Eickhoff said Thursday. ''He's a great pitcher and I was fortunate to come over here in a good position and have the opportunity in 2015 to get a shot.''
Eickhoff was unimpressive in the minor leagues with Texas, but jumped into Philadelphia's rotation soon after the trade following three solid starts at Triple-A Lehigh Valley.
He wowed the organization in his first eight outings, going 3-3 with a 2.82 ERA. Eickhoff finished 2015 with back-to-back seven-inning, 10-strikeout games against the Nationals and Mets and earned a spot in the majors last spring. He was 11-14 with a 3.65 ERA in 33 starts.
The 26-year-old right-hander got roughed up in a 6-4 loss to Toronto on Thursday, allowing four runs and seven hits in three innings. But Eickhoff was mainly working on locating his fastball and didn't try to set hitters up.
''Results weren't what I wanted but I located a lot more fastballs than my previous start and I was happy with it,'' he said.
Eickhoff is slated to be Philadelphia's No. 2 starter behind Jeremy Hellickson and in front of Clay Buchholz. He's part of a promising staff that also includes youngsters Vince Velasquez and Aaron Nola with Thompson, Asher, Zach Eflin and others waiting in the minors.
''I feel very comfortable with him,'' manager Pete Mackanin said. ''I know what he's capable of doing. I don't measure what he does in spring training that much. What he does in the regular season is more important for me. I'm solid with Eickhoff.''
NOTES: Blue Jays C Jarrod Saltalamacchia was 3 for 3 with a solo homer. ... Phillies 1B Tommy Joseph hit a solo shot. ... Phillies SS Freddy Galvis, a Gold Glove finalist, made two outstanding plays. ... Toronto LHP Francisco Liriano struck out five in three hitless innings.
Follow Rob Maaddi on Twitter: https://twitter.com/AP-RobMaaddi