Of the five starting pitchers in the Frisco rotation, Jerad Eickhoff may be the man you recognize the least. Though he may not receive as much buzz as Chi Chi or Jake Thompson, or have the cool nickname like Big Cat Alec Asher, Jerad Eickhoff is a name that you should become familiar with. The friendly 24 year old midwestern kid stands in a sturdy 6’4″ 240 pounds. This dude is built to be a horse and throws like it, averaging almost 6 innings per start this year. His repertoire includes a fastball that sits mid 90s and touches 98. He also has a slider, which he uses effectively, to go with a changeup and curveball that he can locate with regularity.
Eickhoff has great makeup to compliment his good stuff including his firm handshake and politician quality smile that he wears with regularity. Jerad is the kind of guy you would want to grab a beer with, or a burger with if you’re me for the next 8 months. He’s the kind of guy you want to root for if you like stand up guys who were 15th round draft picks from Olney Central College in Illinois. I sat down with Jerad on Tuesday and asked him a couple of questions. Here is what he had to say:
Brice Paterik: Your last start you struggled a bit early giving up 3 runs in the first inning on a homer but you ended up going 6 innings and striking out 9. What adjustments did you make after that 1st inning that allowed you to be so successful?
Jerad Eickhoff: I think I just incorporated my other pitches for the most part. Early on I was having trouble throwing that curveball for a strike and throwing that changeup just to get them off and my slider as well just to get them off balance, and at the same time early on he just caught a pitch in the zone and he was able to get ahead in the game. Other than that I just made some adjustments mixing my pitches a little more to keep them off balance.
BP: When I watched your start on June 30th your curveball induced quite a few ugly swings. Has that been a pitch you’ve been focusing on recently?
JE: I think I have. When you’re going through the full season process you have to kind of learn yourself as a pitcher and whatnot. I knew I had a good curveball it’s just sometimes you get away from it because you’re working on different things, maybe a slider and a changeups and you get away from it. I started throwing some good ones a couple starts ago and after that a switch went off in my head and said hey that’s not a bad pitch you should throw it more often. I’ve been getting some bad swings from hitters so that’s always a good thing.
BP: You got a new teammate this week about a week ago from a trade with Detroit. What do you know about him so far and have you talked much with him?
JE: I haven’t talked that much with him yet so far. I introduced myself to him when he first came over. Being new in the system you’re usually pretty quiet so I’m just going to let him feel it out and I’m sure we’ll get to know each other better later on but I’m looking forward to seeing him pitch tonight. I know he’s a younger guy for this level so that’s a great achievement for him. I know he’s from Texas so that’s going to be exciting for him to be back around his hometown. I know he’s a great guy and I’m looking forward to him being on our team.
BP: With the strange season the big club is having in terms of injuries especially to pitchers I have a few interesting questions for you. Do you have any potentially dangerous pets and also do you have an adequate mattress and pillow?
JE: Yes I have adequate of both.
BP: On a more serious note many of those injuries have forced a bunch of young guys, some of whom were your teammates early on in the season, into the majors. What has it been like to know you’re only possibly one freak injury away from a big league debut?
JE: You try not to really think about that even though it’s hard being so close to Dallas. The biggest thing that Jeff Andrews and our pitching coordinator Danny Clark emphasize to just focus on what you’re doing here because you’re pitching for the Frisco RoughRiders. It sounds simple but it’s so true. You just try to help the team here win and if you get the call that’s fantastic and if not then I hope and I think and I believe that my time will come but it’s not my time now. So that’s what you’ve got to think and that’s just how you have to go about it.
BP: Your strikeouts per 9 innings is higher than it’s ever been in full season ball in your career. What have you changed this year to make you miss more bats?
JE: Like we talked about earlier with the curveball that’s helped me a lot realizing that is a good pitch at this level to get aggressive hitters off balance. Keeping that pitch down in the zone and making it look like a strike and then break out of the zone and also the slider has helped me a lot to get guys off my fastball because it looks like a fastball coming out and ends up off the plate. I think the combination of the two the hitters have trouble seeing which one’s which and I end up getting some uneasy swings which is always better for me.
BP: Your catcher Patrick Cantwell ha always been praised for how good he is defensively. What has it been like having him behind the dish calling games for you?
JE: It’s fantastic. It’s almost like a weight off your shoulders having a guy like that behind you. If you’ve got the game rolling and you’re stumped on which pitch to throw and he throws down a sign you know that he’s throwing it down for a reason and that he’s going to do whatever he can to keep it in front of him especially with a breaking ball having a guy on third with one or two outs and you’ve got to throw that curveball in the ground knowing that he’s going to block it and having that confidence in him means everything in the world on the mound.
I encourage you if you get a chance to go see him in Frisco you should take advantage of that opportunity. He starts tonight in San Antonio and will probably get a start in the next homestand. Thank you to Alex Vispoli and his team of interns who helped me to set up this interview, thank you to Jerad for taking the time to speak with me and thanks to y’all for reading. Y’all are awesome, enjoy your weekend!