Adam Eaton's first six starts for the Phillies yielded a National
League-worst 8.81 ERA.
His last three starts have been far better.
Eaton tossed six scoreless innings Sunday to lift the Phillies to a victory over the Toronto Blue Jays. That's three straight quality starts for Eaton, a right-hander who signed a three-year, $24.5 million free-agent contract with the Phillies last November.
So, what's the difference that has yielded such better results?
Eaton said he's been better able to finish off hitters after he gets ahead in the count. During his initial starts, he was giving up hits on full-count and two-strike pitches. He also is feeling more comfortable on the mound after making a mechanical adjustment in the final days of spring training and moving over to the third-base side of the rubber.
"You have to make the pitch a little less on the plate," Eaton said. "(Sunday) wasn't indicative of the last couple of starts, in which I was able to keep the ball down more. It was a little more up, but it had some movement and I was able to jam guys and keep it off the barrel. Early in the year, I wasn't able to make those pitches. I was a little more over the middle with less movement."
Eaton’s emergence is important for a starting rotation that already lost its ace.
Until five weeks ago, Brett Myers was a starter, trained to throw at least 100 pitches every five days.
So Myers couldn't understand the uproar last week over his three straight relief appearances and four outings in five days. He never suffered an injury as a starter, so why all of a sudden would his right arm break down now that he's the Phillies' closer?
"I'm a little sick of answering those questions," Myers said Sunday. "I can do it. My arm bounces back. It's fine."
But that doesn't mean manager Charlie Manuel won't be judicious about using him.
In nine appearances since becoming the closer May 3, Myers has pitched more than one inning four times and entered in a non-save situation twice. But he's been asked to get more than four outs only twice, and he's thrown 30 or more pitches only twice.
"I feel like he definitely can go two, maybe three, innings," Manuel said, "and one of the reasons he can do that is because he was a starter. But as the season goes along, I definitely don't want him to get tired.
"When he's had rest, or when we have a day off the next day, that's when I'd like him to pitch two innings. But I see him as more of a four-out guy than a two-inning guy."
Manuel asked Myers to get four outs Sunday in the series finale against the Toronto Blue Jays after setup man Geoff Geary served up three solo homers that sliced a 5-0 lead to 5-3 in the eighth inning. Myers, who didn't pitch the previous night in a 13-2 blowout loss, threw 24 pitches, including several 95- and 96-mph fastballs, to secure a two-run victory.
With the Phillies off Monday, Myers will be available to pitch Tuesday at Florida.
"It's all about how you take care of your arm," Myers said. "Thank God, I haven't had any problems with it. My arm actually hurts whenever they give me a day off. It's like, 'shouldn't I be doing something today?'"
News and Notes from Philly
Tom Gordon (right shoulder inflammation) started a conditioning program Monday at the Phillies' facility in Clearwater. Gordon, who has been sidelined since May 3, has been slowed by an upper respiratory infection that forced him to be hospitalized for three days two weekends ago. Gordon, the Phillies' 39-year-old closer, will remain in Clearwater through the week, then return to Philadelphia next Monday to see team physician Michael Ciccotti.
Ryan Howard (strained left quadriceps) continued his rehab program Monday under the supervision of retired former Phillies athletic trainer Jeff Cooper. Howard remains scheduled to be the designated hitter in back-to-back games Wednesday and Thursday for Class-A Lakewood.
Fabio Castro was optioned to Class AA Reading after Sunday's game, leaving the Phillies without a left-handed reliever in their bullpen. Called up April 26 to replace erratic LHP Matt Smith, Castro, 22, served up five runs on four hits and five walks in 3 2/3 innings for a 12.27 ERA. "Castro needs to pitch more," manager Charlie Manuel said. "I think he'll be a situational left-hander in the big leagues, and I think he'll be a good one. I compare him to (Ricardo) Rincon when I had him in Cleveland. He's the same type of pitcher but with better stuff. When I say he needs to pitch more, he needs to pitch a lot."
Greg Dobbs has made the most of an opportunity for extra playing time. Ryan Howard's quad injury and a string of seven straight right-handed starting pitchers has meant more starts for Dobbs, who went 12-for-29 (.414) with four RBIs and six runs during the Phillies' just-completed 10-game homestand. "It means the whole world," Dobbs said. "All you can ask is to be given an opportunity. But when (Howard) comes back, I'm not going to be disappointed. I'm not going to think I should play over him. If my performance helps me get out there more to give some guys a rest, that's great."
The Numbers Game: 20 - Outfield assists for the Phillies through 43 games, the most in the majors.