CLEARWATER, Fla. -- Right-hander Jerad Eickhoff, who is being counted on to fill a rotation spot, pitched under game conditions for the first time in a camp game at the Carpenter Complex on Saturday. He's recovering from a fractured right thumb.
So it didn't help that a blister popped up on his right foot during his outing, which meant that he pitched only two innings instead of the expected three. He allowed three runs on four hits and two walks while throwing 34 pitches, 20 for strikes.
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On balance, he was pleased with his outing.
"It feels good to be back out there. It's been a long time coming. Just felt good. Pitches felt good, just getting my feet wet again," he said. "Finger feels good. It's just getting that feel back. That's the biggest thing, getting in a game, getting that adrenaline going, that same feel in the thumb and everything."
Pitching coach Bob McClure said before the game that Eickhoff can still be ready to make his first start of the regular season on schedule even if he makes another Minor League appearance before pitching in a Grapefruit League game.
"If everything goes [well] and we have no more setbacks," he said. "How he's throwing his BPs and how he's throwing, everything looks pretty good. Not quite where he was at the end of the season, but it looks like it's getting there quick."
Eickhoff expects to be ready.
"Absolutely," he said. "The body feels great. It's just a matter of getting that feel, getting that repetition. Now I just continue to build. Just focusing on what I have next."
He said he needs to improve his command.
"I expect a lot of myself, and I'm trying to be in and out, to a 'T' every pitch. But there were some pitches that got away a bit. I was around the zone, and I was happy with that for the most part," he noted, adding that he's thrown all his pitches."
McClure added a few more notes about the state of the pitching staff:
Charlie Morton and Jeremy Hellickson, who have been slowed by the flu, will each pitch in Minor League games on Sunday. So will Jeanmar Gomez, who will just be getting work in.
David Hernandez (triceps tendinitis), who has a chance to fill the closer's role left vacant when Ken Giles was traded to the Astros, threw in the bullpen Saturday morning. McClure said he "looked fine" and that he was waiting to see how he feels Sunday before committing to when he'll throw next and under what circumstances.