Results tagged ‘ Jerad Eickhoff ’
The 2018 Major League Baseball season has begun and across the landscape former Hickory Crawdads dot the big-league rosters. Thirty-two former players are on 16 different teams, including 11 with the Texas Rangers, the parent club of the Crawdads.
Below is an overview of where former Hickory players will start the 2018 season:
Alex Claudio: The 2013 Crawdads reliever will bring his changeup to the Rangers for his fifth season at Arlington. Claudio posted 11 saves and a 2.50 ERA over 70 games (8th in the AL) last year. He again is expected to be a key member of the Rangers bullpen.
Joey Gallo: The Crawdads single-season home run record holder joins the Rangers for his fourth season in the majors. A third baseman for the 2013 team, Gallo will start at first for Texas. He is coming off a season in which he hit 41 homers (third in the AL) and slugged .537 (9th).
Keone Kela: Another Crawdads reliever from the 2013 club returns to the Rangers for his fourth big-league season. Kela is expected to be the closer for the Texas, one season after posting a 2.79 ERA and struck out 51 in 38.2 innings (39 games).
Jose Leclerc: A third reliever off the 2013 Crawdads squad will be in his third season with the Rangers, but his first on the opening-day roster. He appeared in 47 games out of the Texas bullpen in 2017 and put up a 3.94 ERA. Opposing hitters hit just .145 against Leclerc, who struck out 60 in 45.2 innings.
Nomar Mazara: The Crawdads right fielder in 2013 and 2014 will be in his third season with Texas to start the season. Mazara posted a .253/.323/.422 slash in 2017 with 20 homers and 101 RBI (9th in the AL). He opens the season as the Rangers starting right fielder.
Rougned Odor: The Crawdads 2012 second baseman suits up for Texas in his fifth season as the club’s starter at the same position. Though he hit 30 or more homers for his second straight season, Odor struggled at the plate with a .204/.252/.397 slash.
Martin Perez: The 2009 Crawdads starting pitcher will begin the season on the disabled list (right elbow) but is expected to make his first start for the Rangers on April 5. Now in his seventh season, Perez went 13-12 in 32 starts in 2017. He’s looking to improve on a 4.82 ERA and a .301 opponents batting avg.
Jurickson Profar: The 2011 Crawdads shortstop is now in his fifth season with the Rangers after spending much of last year at AAA Round Rock. Profar hit .172/.294/.207 in 22 major league games in 2017. He will play a utility role for Texas.
Drew Robinson: The 2012 Crawdads third baseman is in his second season with the Rangers after making his debut with the club last April. Sent down to AAA Round Rock shortly after his debut, Robinson returned mid-season and hit .224/.314/.439 in 48 games with Texas. He starts the season as a utilityman.
Ricardo Rodriguez: The 2014-2015 pitcher for the Crawdads will start the 2018 season on the disabled list with biceps tendinitis. Rodriguez made his big-league debut with the Rangers last August. In 16 relief appearances, he had a 6.15 ERA in 13 innings.
Ryan Rua: The 2013 Crawdads second baseman is in his fifth major league season with the Rangers and is the team’s starting left fielder. Rua split last season with Texas and AAA Round Rock. With the Rangers, he had a .217/.294/.333 slash with nine extra-base hits in 144 plate appearances.
Richard Bleier: A starting pitcher at the beginning of the 2009 season, the lefty is in his third major league season, the second with the Orioles. Bleier was called up to stay with the Orioles in May 2017 and became a key part of the team’s bullpen. In 57 games covering 63.1 innings, Bleier went 2-1 with a 1.99 ERA to go with an opponents batting average of .257 and a 1.18 WHIP.
Chicago White Sox:
Leury Garcia: The Crawdads shortstop from 2009-2010 is in his sixth major league season with 215 his 240 big-league games coming with the White Sox. Garcia hit for a MLB career high .270 in 87 games with nine homers and 33 RBI. He will play a utility role, mostly as a fourth outfielder.
Rajai Davis: The Crawdads 2003 center fielder – he also played a handful of games with the team in 2002 – begins his 13th big-league season by rejoining the Indians. Signed by Cleveland to a minor league contract in the offseason, Davis had a strong spring to make the team. Davis stole 43 bases for Cleveland in 134 games in 2016 and his eighth-inning, three-run homer against Aroldis Chapman in game seven of the 2016 World Series tied the game at the time. He played in 100 games with Oakland last season before going to the Boston Red Sox in a late-season trade. Davis posted a .235/.293/.348 slash and stole 29 bases last year. He will be a fourth outfielder this year for the Indians.
Kansas City Royals:
Justin Grimm: A 2011 starting pitcher for Hickory is now in his seventh major league season, the first with Kansas City. The Royals signed him after the Chicago Cubs released him in spring training. Grimm went 1-2 with a 5.53 ERA in 50 relief appearances last year with the Cubs.
Zach Duke: A starting pitcher for the Crawdads in 2003, Duke is now in his 14th season in the major leagues and will begin his tenure with the Twins this season out of the bullpen. Coming off 2016 “Tommy John” surgery, Duke made 27 relief appearances for the St. Louis Cardinals in 2017 with a 3.93 ERA and a .197 OBA in 18.1 innings. He’s expected to be a left-handed specialist for Minnesota.
New York Yankees:
Neil Walker: The 2005 Crawdads catcher is in his 10th major league season, his first with the Yankees after signing a free-agent contract with the club in March. After seven seasons as the starting second baseman for the Pittsburgh Pirates and New York Mets, Walker moved around the diamond in 2017, first with the Mets and then with the Milwaukee Brewers after a midseason trade. At the plate, Walker posted a .265/.362/.439 slash with 14 homers and 49 RBI. He is expected to play first and second with the Yankees.
Toronto Blue Jays:
Steve Pearce: The 2007 Crawdads first baseman is in his 12th major league season, the second with the Blue Jays. Last year, Pearce was the right-handed part of the Blue Jays platoon in leftfield and is expected to play in the same role in 2018. He hit .252/.319/.438 with 13 homers and 37 RBI in 92 games last year.
Carl Edwards, Jr.: A member of the Crawdads starting rotation in 2013, Edwards is now in his fourth season as a reliever with the Cubs. In 73 games last season, Edwards had a 2.98 ERA with an opponents batting average of .134 on 66.1 innings. His 25 holds last year was second in the National League. He is expected again to be a key member of the Cubs bullpen.
Jared Hughes: A starting pitcher for the Crawdads in 2006 and 2007, Hughes enters his eighth season in the big leagues, his first with the Reds after signing a two-year contract in the offseason. Last season with the Milwaukee Brewers, Hughes with 5-3 with a 3.02 ERA and one save. Hughes will pitch out of the bullpen for the Reds.
Los Angeles Dodgers:
Wilmer Font: A starting pitcher for the Crawdads in 2009 and 2010, Font is in his fourth major league season, the second with the Dodgers. Font spent much of 2017 at AAA Oklahoma City where he put together a strong season that led to his selection as the Pacific Coast League pitcher of the year. Font pitched in three games with the Dodgers after rosters expanded in September and gave up seven runs in 3.2 Innings. He’ll pitch out of the bullpen for the Dodgers.
Lewis Brinson: The Crawdads starting center fielder in 2013 and 2014, Brinson has a full-fledged opportunity for the same role in the majors after Brinson was traded to the Marlins in the offseason. Brinson made his big-league debut last summer with the Brewers and went 5-for-47 in 21 games.
Tomas Telis: The Crawdads catcher from 2011 is in his fifth major league season, the fourth with the Marlins. He spent much of 2017 at AAA New Orleans but posted a .240/.279/.367 slash in 48 big-league games. Telis will be the starting catcher for the Marlins due to an injury to J.T. Realmuto
Jorge Alfaro: The Crawdads catcher from 2012 and 2013 will be on his first opening-day roster after parts of two seasons with the Phillies. A midseason all-star at AAA Lehigh Valley, Alfaro hit .314/.360/.514 in 29 games at Philadelphia. He will split time with Andrew Knapp behind the plate.
Jerad Eickhoff: The Crawdads starting pitcher in 2012 is in his fourth season with the Phillies, though he starts the season on the disabled list with a strained right lat. In 24 starts last season, Eickhoff went 4-8 with a 4.71 ERA.
Odubel Herrera: The starting second baseman for Hickory in 2011, Herrera is now cemented as the Phillies center fielder for the fourth straight season. In 138 games in 2017, he hit .281/.325/.452 with 42 doubles – the third most in the NL – 14 homers and 56 RBI.
Nick Williams: The 2013 starting left fielder for Hickory is in his second season with the Phillies after he made his major league debut for the team last June. Williams went on to hit .288/.338/.473 with 12 homers and 55 RBI in 83 games with the Phillies. He is the starting right fielder.
Jordy Mercer: The starting shortstop the second half of the 2008 season with the Crawdads is the final member remaining with Pittsburgh from the former Hickory affiliation with the Pirates that ended in 2008. Now in his seventh season – the sixth as the Bucs shortstop – he is likely on the move in what is his final contract year with Pittsburgh. With the Pirates in 2017, Mercer hit .255/.326/.406 with 14 homers and 58 RBI in 145 games.
San Diego Padres:
Robbie Erlin: The 2010 South Atlantic League’s ERA champ while with Hickory is now in his fifth season with the Padres. Tommy John surgery cost the left-hander much of the 2016 and all of the 2017 season. Erlin will likely be in the San Diego rotation.
Christian Villanueva: The 2011 Crawdads third baseman made his big-league debut with San Diego last September in grand style after hitting four homers and going 11-for-32 in 12 games. Villanueva returns to the Padres as a utility infielder after he made his first opening-day roster.
San Francisco Giants:
Andrew McCutchen: The 2006 Crawdads center fielder is in his tenth major league season, but after an offseason trade, he’ll suit up for another club other than the Pittsburgh Pirates for the first time. The 2013 National League MVP now patrols right field for the Giants after nine seasons as the Pirates center fielder. In 156 games last season, McCutchen hit .279/.363/.486 with 28 homers and 88 RBI.
Tony Watson: A starter in his brief stint with the Crawdads in 2007, the left-hander is now in his seventh major league season as one of the game’s best left-handed setup relievers. After five full seasons with the Pirates, he was dealt in a midseason trade to the Los Angeles Dodgers, with whom he made his first World Series appearance. In 71 games last season, he was 7-4 with ten saves and a 3.38 ERA in 66.2 innings. Watson signed a two-year contract with the Giants in the offseason.
As the 2017 season begins, 29 former Hickory Crawdads will dot major league rosters. That is up from 25 to start the 2016 campaign.
Ten of those are on the Crawdads parent club, the Texas Rangers. Among American League clubs, only Toronto has two former Hickory players. Thirteen former Crawdads are on National League teams, including three on the Pittsburgh Pirates, left over from the days of their affiliation with Hickory. The Chicago Cubs, Philadelphia Phillies and San Diego Padres each have two.
Three players on MLB rosters will start the year on the disabled list: Hanser Alberto (Texas), Robbie Erlin (San Diego) and Zach Duke (St. Louis).
Here is a synopsis of each player in the majors:
Hanser Alberto (’12): The infielder will begin the season on the disabled. He has played the last two seasons with Texas, posting a .194/ .204 /.226 slash over 76 combined games.
Jose Bautista (’02): The right-handed hitter will be in his 14th major league season, the ninth with the Toronto Blue Jays. Battling injuries in 2016, Bautista hit 22 homers in 116 and posted a .234/.366/.452 slash. He signed a one-year contract with Toronto during the off-season to remain with the club.
Alex Claudio (’13): The soft-tossing, lefty reliever will be in his fourth major league season with the Texas Rangers. In 39 games in 2016, he put up a 2.79 ERA over 51.2 innings with 34 Ks and 10 walks.
Rajai Davis (’02-’03): The speedy outfielder will be in his 12th major league season, his first with the Oakland A’s after signing a free agent contract in the off-season. The right-handed hitter posted a .249/.306/.388 slash with Cleveland in 2016 and led the American League with 43 stolen bases. He is expected to start in centerfield for the Athletics, with whom he played for from 2008-2010.
Joey Gallo (’13): The left-handed hitter will be in his third major league season with the Texas Rangers. He has played in 53 games the previous two years, putting up a .173/ .281/.368 slash. Gallo will start at third in place of the injured Adrian Beltre.
Leury Garcia (’09-’10): The switch-hitter will be in his fifth major league season, most of those with the Chicago Cubs. Out of minor-league options, Garcia was kept on the big league club and will fill a utility role. He spent much of last year at AAA Charlotte.
Jose Leclerc (’13): The right-handed reliever will be on his first opening-day roster after he made 12 relief appearances for the Texas Rangers in his debut season last year. He put up a 1.80 ERA in 15 innings with 15 Ks and 13 BBs. He split last year at AA Frisco and AAA Round Rock.
Nomar Mazara (’13-’14): The left-handed hitting outfielder will be in his second major league season with the Texas Rangers after playing in 145 games during his debut season. He posted a .266/.320/.419 slash with 20 homers and 64 RBI. Mazara will start the season in right.
Rougned Odor (’12): The left-handed second baseman will be in his fourth season with the Texas Rangers and recently signed a six-year extension with the club. Last year, Odor hit 33 homers and collected 88 RBI in 150 games. His posted a .271/.296 /.502 slash.
Steve Pearce (’07): The right-handed hitter will be in his 11th major league season, the first with the Toronto Blue Jays after signing a two-year deal during the off-season. Pearce split last year between Tampa Bay and Baltimore, posting a .288/.374/.492 slash over 110 games. He his expected to start in left.
Martin Perez (’09): The left-handed pitcher will be in his sixth major league season with the Texas Rangers. Perez went 10-11 with a 4.39 ERA over 33 starts in 2016. He is expected to be the No. 3 starter for the Rangers.
Jurickson Profar (’12, ’15): The switch-hitter will be in his fourth major league season with the Texas Rangers, but is on his first opening-day roster. Profar had a .239/.321/.338 slash over 90 games in 2016. He is expected to play a utility role for the Rangers this year.
Drew Robinson (’12): The left-handed hitter will make his major league debut with the Texas Rangers this season after spending last year at AAA Round Rock. Robinson will play a utility role with Texas.
Robbie Ross (’10): The left-handed reliever will be in his sixth major league season, the third with the Boston Red Sox. Ross posted a 3.25 ERA in 2016 and fanned 56 over 55.1 innings.
Ryan Rua (’13): The right-handed hitter will be in his fourth major league season with the Texas Rangers. Rua posted a .258//331/.400 slash over 99 games last year. He is expected to split time in left and at first.
Chris Young (’01-’02): The right-handed pitcher will be in his 13th major league season, the third with the Kansas City Royals. Young went 3-9 in 34 games (13 starts) in 2016 with a 6.19 ERA. He lost out in a battle for the No. 5 spot in the rotation and will be a long-man out of the bullpen.
Zach Duke (’03): The left-handed reliever will miss the 2017 season after undergoing Tommy John surgery. He is currently with the St. Louis Cardinals after the team acquired him from the Chicago White Sox in a 2016 trade.
Carl Edwards, Jr. (’13): The right-handed reliever will be in his third major league season with the Chicago Cubs. This will be his first opening-day in the majors. In 36 games last year, Edwards posted a 3.75 ERA with 52 Ks and 14 BBs over 36 innings. The National League hit just .123 against Edwards.
Jerad Eickhoff (’12): The right-handed starting pitcher will be in his third major league season with the Philadelphia Phillies after he completed his first full year with the club in 2016. He went 11-14 with a 3.65 ERA over 33 starts, striking out 167 and walking 42 over 197.1 innings. Eickhoff will be the No. 2 starter for the Phillies.
Robbie Erlin (’10): The left-handed pitcher will begin this season on the disabled list with the San Diego Padres while he continues his recovery from Tommy John surgery in 2016. He hopes to return to the club this midseason for what would be his fifth major league season.
Justin Grimm (’11): The right-handed reliever will be in his sixth major league season, the fifth with the Chicago Cubs. In 68 appearances in 2016, Grimm went 2-1 with a 4.10 ERA and fanned 65 to just 23 walks over 52.2 IP. Grimm will pitch in middle relief.
Odubel Herrera (’11): The left-handed hitter will be in his third major league season with the Philadelphia Phillies after he took a big step as one of the National League’s best young centerfielders in 2016. During a season in which he represented the Phillies on the National League All-Star Team, Herrera posted a .286/.361/.420 slash and stole 25 bases in 159 games.
Jared Hughes (’07-’08): The right-handed reliever will be in his seventh major league season and recently just signed with the Milwaukee Brewers after the Pittsburgh Pirates released him last week. Hughes went 1-1 with a 3.03 ERA over 67 appearances in 2016. He will pitch in middle relief for the Brewers.
Andrew McCutchen (’06): The right-handed hitter will be in his ninth major league season with the Pittsburgh Pirates. McCutchen struggled over 153 games last year and posted his career-worst slash (.256/.336/.430). He hit 24 homers, but stole just six bases in 13 attempts. After manning center his entire career, McCutchen will shift to right this year.
Jordy Mercer (’08): The right-handed shortstop will be in his sixth major league season with the Pittsburgh Pirates. He played in 149 games last year and posted a .256/.313/.377 with 11 homers and 59 RBI.
Neil Ramirez (’09-’10): The right-handed pitcher will be in his fourth major league season, the first with the San Francisco Giants. Ramirez signed a minor-league contract with the club during the offseason and made the club out of spring training. Ramirez made 18 relief appearances with three clubs (Cubs, Milwaukee, Minnesota) and struggled to a 6.00 ERA over 24 innings. He did strike out 24, but walked 18 and had a 1.67 WHIP. He will come out of the bullpen for the Giants.
Luis Sardinas (’12): The switch-hitter will be in his fourth major league season, the second with the San Diego Padres after the team acquired him from Seattle during the 2016 season. Sardinas played in 66 combined games last year with a .244/.295/.356 slash. He will play some shortstop, but will start the season in a utility role.
Neil Walker (’05): The switch-hitting second baseman will be in his ninth major league season, the second with the New York Mets after resigning in the offseason. Despite battling a back injury, Walker still posted a .282/.347/.476 over 113 games with the Mets and blasted 23 homers.
Tony Watson (’07): The left-handed reliever will be in his seventh major league season with the Pittsburgh Pirates. After the midseason trade of Mark Melancon, Watson took on the job of the Pirates closer in 2016 and will serve in the same role this year. He went 2-5 with 15 saves last year over 70 games with a 3.06 ERA. Watson struck out 58 and walked 20 over 67.2 IP.
In the space of three seasons, Jerad Eickhoff has gone from low-A starter to a highly-sought trade piece that brought then- Philadelphia Phillies pitcher Cole Hamels to the Texas Rangers. In many ways, the ascension of Eickhoff to major league pitcher is a continuation of a series of events that started at Mater Dei High School in Evansville, Ind.
In many ways, Eickhoff was the normal midwestern kid who played whatever sport was in season at the time, but it was in baseball that he excelled. A third baseman mostly in high school, Eickhoff said he threw only about six innings in junior season before his coaches convinced him to give pitching a longer look. He increased his work load to 45 innings in his senior season before heading off to the junior-college ranks.
After his freshman season at Olney (Ill.) Community College, Eickhoff was the 46th round pick of the Chicago Cubs. However, he chose to return to Olney CC for his sophomore season, during which he struck out 116 in 88.1 innings and earned NJCAA All-American honors. The Rangers picked him up in the 15th round pick in 2011 and signed him away from a commitment to Western Kentucky.
Eickhoff spent his first pro season in the bullpen, splitting time between the Arizona Summer League Rangers and Spokane. He went on to make 25 starts for Hickory in 2012, when he posted a 13-7 mark and a 4.69 ERA in 126.2 innings.
His repertoire with Hickory was a fastball that sat in the 90-94 mph range with an occasional cutter to go with a changeup and curve.
As his pitching career rocketed from a high school junior third baseman to a spot as a major league starting pitcher, Eickhoff’s stop in Hickory was about learning how to understand what he could and could not control.
The start I remember most from Eickhoff’s 2012 season came during a game on July 3rd at Greensboro. Much of the early-inning events worked against Eickhoff.. A misplayed, inning-ending grounder turned into a two-run homer in the first. Two more errors, a passed ball and a disagreement with the umpire’s strike zone led to three more runs in the second. At that point, Hickory Crawdads pitching coach Storm Davis made a mound visit.
“I just wanted to remind him that all that stuff going around him, you can only control what you can control,” said Davis in an interview I did with him the next day. “What can you control? I can control the next pitch I throw, period. I can’t control if the umpire calls it a strike, if we field it, they call him out or safe, none of that. I can’t control where the ball is hit.”
“So we’ve really been pounding that into him all year. Not getting involved in stuff I can’t control, just the stuff I can control.”
Eickhoff eventually battled through five innings and the Crawdads rallied back for a 7-6 win – a victory that manager Bill Richardson said was to that point the highlight game of the season.
“He was player of the game for me,” said Richardson. “With any other pitcher, they couldn’t have hung in there with the umpires and the sloppy defense. He just kept battling and showing that yeoman’s work. I think our offense fed off of that. He wasn’t giving up, so we better get in the fight or we are going to get pummeled here. Yesterday, I was pleased, because, number one, what he went through. That was probably his best stuff. That could’ve easily been zeroes all the way across.”
Eickhoff went on split the 2013 season at high-A Myrtle Beach and AA Frisco and then returned to the RoughRiders in 2014. He was added to the Rangers 40-man roster last winter and spent this season at AAA Round Rock before going to the Phillies chain, with whom he pitched at AAA Lehigh Valley.
Below is an interview I did with Eickhoff, during which he talked about learning to come to terms with what he could and could not control, as well as how he got into pitching.
How did you get started in baseball?
Eickhoff: My dad (Ron) got me swinging a plastic bat at a whiffle ball when I could first walk. He kind of got it kick started. I enjoyed being in sports.
Did all of you play sports?
Eickhoff: Yeah, we did. We had a pretty athletic family…I played football from 5th grade until my freshman year. I put that aside. I didn’t want to get hurt as baseball was my priority. I played baseball and basketball all four years.
What did you play in basketball?
Eickhoff: Shooting guard. I just kind of got some mismatches because I was a taller guy for that position.
How did baseball become a priority for you?
Eickhoff: I guess for me, I just enjoyed me and my dad and my brothers would go out on a Sunday. My grade school had a baseball field there. I just enjoyed taking ground balls and taking fly balls. When you are younger you enjoy, “Dad, see how high you can hit it up; see how high you can hit it and I’ll see if I can catch it,” and stuff like that. I just enjoyed being on the field and enjoyed getting better at it. It helps that I could hold my ground. I could compete and I just liked having fun.
Did you play other positions in high school?
Eickhoff: I actually didn’t pitch. I only pitched six innings my junior year. I pitched like 45 (innings) my senior year. I played more third base.
How did the transformation to the mound get started and what was it like for you?
Eickhoff: It’s kind of funny, because when I was playing in high school summer baseball, I had some coaches tell me, “hey, you’re playing third base now, but I think your future is going to be in pitching.”
You kind of accept that; you don’t think about it then. As the years kind of took place and I didn’t know college was going to be coming about. Some junior colleges started calling and wanted me to pitch and liked me on the mound. That kind of kick started it and I saw my future started opening up. Maybe I could do this in college and see where it takes me. I just needed to get bigger and get more apt to pitching.
What did people see in you and maybe who was the first person to get you started in that direction?
Eickhoff: I think the biggest thing, first of all, was my body type. I was 6-3 at the time, 175 (pounds) and skinny. I had a decent arm. I could get it across the infield from third base. I guess coaches noticed that that I had played with. I had a good motion; (the ball) looked good coming out of the hand. I think that was the starting point for it. Baseball is such a mental game and mentally I was able to do that sort of thing.
Is there somebody that kickstarted you into that direction, or did it evolve?
Eickhoff: I think it just sort of evolved. My high school coaches, Jeff Schulz, and my pitching coach at the time, as well as Buddy Swift. He was my summer coach. They were all three together in the idea that my feature was in pitching.
Did you have the opportunity to go to a four-year school?
Eickhoff: I did have some opportunities to maybe walk-on and get a smaller scholarship. But the way it was panning out was that I’d fight for a spot. It might take two or three years to see some actual playing time. For me, it was important to get playing right away. If I’m playing, I’m getting better. That’s what my coaches always preached from day one, my dad as well. I think that was the biggest thing, just getting to play every day and being a key factor on the team and really contributing.
What were some highlights for you in high school?
Eickhoff: When I was a sophomore (2007), we went to the state finals (against Norwell High). I wasn’t on the varsity team. I was on the reserve and I got moved up. Although I wasn’t on the field, I got to be with the atmosphere of the state finals.
We faced the number 9th overall pick that year, Jarrod Parker, who’s now pitching for the Oakland Athletics. That, for me, was a thing I wanted to experience again when I was on varsity the next two years and try to get to things like that. That was a great experience for me.
When you were drafted by the Rangers, was there a thought of waiting a year to see if you could bump up, or the opportunity was there and you took it?
Eickhoff: It was pretty tough for me and my family. I’ve always been a school guy. I’m pretty apt on the academic side. It was tough to weigh the options. People were saying, “Yeah, there might be more down the road, but you have this chance you have to take right now.” It’s hard to weigh that. The college is upping their scholarship and Texas is calling and wanting you bad. I think I’d been wanting it for so long to play professional baseball and that opportunity was there, I just felt the opportunity was right and I made the decision.
How did the adjustment to pro ball go for you? What were some things that you had to learn pretty quick?
Eickhoff: I think the biggest thing, which I kind of learned of myself, and my junior college coach (Dennis Conley) instilled in me, it’s about yourself and what you can do for yourself as an individual. It’s about a team, but what do you do off the field to get yourself ready for that. That’s what being a profession is all about is taking care of your business. Your individual goals will come together in a team goal.
That’s the biggest thing is taking care of yourself. Keeping your body in check and maintaining your arm care and the conditioning. Take everything upon yourself.
You’ve gotten off to a 10-4 start (at the time of the interview in early July 2012). I know some of that has been run support, but what’s been the key to your success so far?
Eickhoff: I can’t complain about the run support. The defense and offense has been really great for me. I tip my hat to those guys and what they’ve done. I’m just trying to stay consistent and do my best for them as well and get outs and help my team win.
Being a 15th round choice, do you feel like you have to work extra hard because of the draft selection and the coming from a not well-known baseball school?
Eickhoff: Knowing me and my nature, I’ve always worked as hard as I can. If I was a first-round pick I’d work the same amount as I do now. That’s a big thing, to work hard from day one. That’s what my mom and my dad instilled in me. I just continue taking it day by day and keep working to see where things take me.
One of the things Storm Davis said in talking about you is having you learn how to let things go that you can’t control. Has that been a part of the process of learning to be a pro, whereas before you could strike out a bunch of guys?
Eickhoff: Absolutely. Me and Storm talk every day, and D.C. (Rangers minor league pitching coordinator Danny Clark) as well, about focusing on what you can control and that is when the ball leaves my hand. That’s the end of my control. That’s all I can do is do that. I can’t make the plays at shortstop; I can’t make the plays at second. So, what happens, happens. What I can do is make good pitches and hopefully get good results by ground balls and strikeouts. That’s the biggest thing, just letting things pass that I can’t control.
Is that a continuation of learning about letting go of things you can’t control, like being a 15th-round pick?
Eckhoff: Yeah, I wish I was a first-rounder, but that’s passed and what’s happened, happened. I just continue to work every day and do what I can. What I control is conditioning and the effort I put in and the throwing program and things like that and keeping my body in check. I’m a competitive guy and I’m going to do what I can to try to make it in this game.
What’s the thing that you will need to work at most moving up the chain that you’ll have to work hardest at?
Eickhoff: One of the biggest things is just letting things go. No matter how bad things may seem on the field, if I give up six runs or so, just reel it in and work on keeping those innings shorter and keeping those innings from exploding. Maybe keeping it at one or two runs instead of five runs. Just continue to pitch instead of walking out and letting negative things seeping in with doubts. Keeping and staying positive, as skip (Bill Richardons) says, “Stay the course” and continue with what I can do and what I can control and be myself as a pitcher.
What do you think has been the biggest success of your season so far?
Eickhoff: I think the success is, obviously, I’ve been very fortunate to stay healthy. I’m very fortunate for that. I know a lot of guys that have had injuries here and there. I continue to work on things with Storm and Danny Clark and translating that from the bullpen to the game mound when the hitter steps in. I think that’s the biggest thing that has helped me translate the success that I’ve had.
What others said about Eickhoff in 2012:
Rangers minor league pitching coordinator Danny Clark:
The reports we are getting is that he’s a very durable guy. The biggest thing for Jerad is to be able to make adjustments during the game. I think that’s one of the positives he has at a young age. I think his work ethic comes into play during the competition. So, Jerad has got a really high up-ceiling, for him. We see a lot of good things that he’s doing. He’s starting to be able to command the baseball when he’s behind in the count. So, I think there’s a lot of combinations there that’s leading to that success that he has.
Clark on Jerad’s work effect:
With guys at this level, a lot of times quantity is not always quality. I think he separates himself with the quality of work that he puts in along with the quantity. I think that’s the way he looks at it and I think that’s what we see. So, he is separating himself. A lot of times with young pitchers they don’t know how to work. I think he will seek out that information and he’s put it into his play.
What’s the biggest thing he’ll need to work on from here going up the chain?
He’s no different than anybody. Obviously, being able to throw strikes behind in the count is one. Number two, just having overall better command. As you go higher, obviously mistakes are not as forgiving. I think he’ll adjust to that. I think he’s got the capability of adjusting to that and he’s got the aptitude to adjust to that.
Storm Davis on Eickhoff:
What are some things that have set him apart in his first full season?
Jared is a really hard worker, so he’s physically up to the challenge, not that the other guys aren’t. I’d think he’d be the first to tell you that he’s not blessed with a lot gifts that some are blessed with. He’s got a good arm.
He’s retaining better. He’s not fighting himself as much out there. He’s very perfectionist oriented. When things aren’t going perfect, it’s a bit hard for him to slow pitch-to-pitch. He’s getting better at it.
The last few starts, where we’ve been able to score runs for him, he’s felt like he’s not been able to pitch up to what he’s capable of pitching. That’s been good for him because he’s had to learn a) to pitch with a lead and b) to fight those inner demons, so to speak, when it comes to not getting into all the negative thoughts that comes with, “Hey I’ve got this big lead and I’m letting my team down.“
What is the thing he’ll need to work on moving up?
I think physically, he’s going to have to get bigger. I think he’s going to need to put on some weight. He was weighs about mid 220s. He’s going to have to get into the mid 230s, maybe 240 before it’s over with.
I think his stuff, like I tell these guys, mostly their stuff and delivery is going to look the same now as it will five years from now. There’ll be tweaks here and there.
I think he needs to keep commanding the fastball which sets up his cutter and curve ball. When he’s doing that, he’s going to be successful.