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Focus for Eickhoff is on offspeed pitches

MLB.com @ToddZolecki

CLEARWATER, Fla. -- Jerad Eickhoff is no longer fighting for a job, so he can afford to work on a few things this spring.

He allowed seven hits, four runs, two walks and struck out three in three innings Thursday in a 6-4 loss to the Blue Jays in a Grapefruit League game at Spectrum Field. He has allowed seven earned runs in eight innings this spring, but there is no need to fret.

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CLEARWATER, Fla. -- Jerad Eickhoff is no longer fighting for a job, so he can afford to work on a few things this spring.

He allowed seven hits, four runs, two walks and struck out three in three innings Thursday in a 6-4 loss to the Blue Jays in a Grapefruit League game at Spectrum Field. He has allowed seven earned runs in eight innings this spring, but there is no need to fret.

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"I feel very comfortable with him," Phillies manager Pete Mackanin said. "I know what he's capable of doing."

"I didn't set up the pitches like I'd want to," Eickhoff said. "That resulted in good swings."

Eickhoff threw a few changeups Thursday. He is working on the pitch this spring because he threw it just 5.2 percent of the time last season, according to Statcast™. Opponents hit .321 (9-for-28) against it.

He also said he wants to make his slider and curveball more consistent. He said he felt he became too reliant on one or the other from start to start.

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Of course, the curveball is a nasty pitch. He got 81 swinging strikeouts with it last season. It ranked fourth in baseball behind only Jose Fernandez (137), Collin McHugh (91) and Corey Kluber (88).

Batters hit just .158 against it, too. It ranked 18th out of 107 pitchers that threw it 500 or more times.

"I didn't execute the sliders like I usually do," Eickhoff said. "I think that allowed them to kind of sit on the fastball."

Batters hit just .229 against the slider.

Asher sinks it, cuts it
Right-hander Alec Asher allowed a run in his first inning of work, but didn't allow a run in his final two. Mackanin said Asher threw too many cutters in his first inning, forgetting to throw his sinker, which is his most effective pitch.

"His sinker was a real money pitch for him," Mackanin said. "For some reasons, guys learn how to throw a cutter, and they get cutter happy."

Knapp's day at first
Catcher Andrew Knapp has a good chance to make the team as a backup catcher, but he started at first base to show his versatility. He had a hard ground ball deflect off his body in the fourth, and he dropped a throw from Freddy Galvis in the sixth.

"He's a work in progress," Mackanin said. "He needs work. He's going to get it. Larry Bowa won't allow it."

Todd Zolecki has covered the Phillies since 2003, and for MLB.com since 2009. Follow him on Twitter and listen to his podcast.

Philadelphia Phillies, Jerad Eickhoff